Carmelo Anthony -- the superstar Knicks fans love to hate, love to love, and occasionally ask to be just friends...with benefits. It seemed as if quite a few fans were sharpening their castration knives as recently as last Saturday night, the rage from a string of lackluster Melo shooting lines boiling over into the game threads of Knicks sites from here to LoHud. Then, 24 hours later, Melo goes all mushy John Cusak on the Garden faithful, showing up at the bedroom window with a boombox full of threes. Then, he earned a costly late tech. Then, he hit the game-winning shot. So many thens, Melo...stop messing with our hearts!
What sometimes gets lost in the game-by-game critiques of his performance is the fact that Carmelo Anthony is having one of the finest seasons by a Knick -- and I'm talking about "one of the finest seasons since Scott Layden took over," I mean one of the finest seasons ever*.
* In this case, I consider "ever" to be the shot-clock era...that pre-1954 stuff wasn't real basketball!
BALL DON'T LIE...and neither do these numbers:
Top Ten Knicks Seasons, by PER:
Believe it or not, Melo topped this list a few weeks ago...his recently cold stretch has downgraded him to merely the third-greatest season by any Knick, ever (at least by this metric). It is entirely possible that Melo will play himself back into the top spot in the second half -- not bad for a dude who didn't seem to warrant even a less-than-damning article in the mainstream press as recently as Halloween.
Points Per Game: 3rd all-time - 29.4 PPG (1st: Bernard King, 84-85 - 32.9)
Melo is achingly close to Richie Guerin's 61-62 season (29.5 PPG), but it's far from a given that he will maintain his current pace through the second half. My research has led me to conclude that Richie Guerin was a real human being who actually existed. His team on that 61-62 Knicks team, Willie Naulls, is tenth on the all-time scoring list, with 25.0 PPG. Wow, that's almost 55 points per game between two guys --that Knicks team must've kicked ass:
(29-51: dead last in the Eastern Division)
Oh well...but they must've had a pretty good offense, right?
(8th out of 9 NBA teams in points per game)
...the early sixties were weird, yo.
As it looks now, Melo realistically has little chance of catching Bernard King. But can his performance this season possibly stack up to the legendary Bernard? Hell yes, we're going there...
Pretty close. Eerily close, in fact. Hey, did you hear that both of these guys were from Brooklyn? I doubt know how you could have...unless you've happened upon one of the roughly 9838726382 Spike Lee commercials on the subject.
The biggest differences here are both in the shooting percentages and in the laughable gulf in three-point volume. Right about now you might be thinking to yourself: "Wow, Bernard's 10% three-point shooting seems like a pretty bizarre round number -- how many threes did he shoot?"
Ten. He shot ten three-pointers for the entire season...which is two fewer threes than Melo attempted on Sunday. Now, if you can't figure out for yourself how many threes he actually made, then every lame joke my wife has ever made about Americans and math is about to come back to bite me in the ass.
Made Field Goals Per Game: 8th all-time - 10.1 FG / G (1st: Bernard King, 84-85 - 12.6)
Attempted Field Goals Per Game: 4th all-time - 22.4 FGA / G (1st: Richie Guerin, 61-62 - 24.3)
Melo doesn't come out so great on this list, but he makes up for it with...
Made Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 1st all-time - 2.8 3P / G
Attempted Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 3rd all-time - 6.6 3PA / G (1st, John Starks, 94-95 - 7.6)
Three-Point Shooting Percentage: 12th all-time - .420 (LOLZ 420!) (1st: Hubert Davis, 95, 96 - .476)
The Knicks all-time points-per-game list is filled with old timers -- only three players have managed to crack the top 25 since 2000 -- which means that you won't see a lot of three-point bombers on the PPG list. Allan Houston (02-30, 22nd all-time) is the only player other than Melo to average more than a single three-point attempt a game. As you saw with Bernard and his ten-threes-per-season approach, even an old-timey Knick with similar size and skills, playing the same position as Melo approached scoring in a completely different way. For better or worse, Melo is playing the modern game...and so far I've seen a lot more "better" than "worse."
Made Free Throws Per Game: 5th all-time - 6.3 per game (1st: Richie Guerin, 61-62 - 8.0)
Attempted Free Throws Per Game: 14th all-time - 7.6 per game (1st: Bernard King, 84-85 - 10.0)
Eddy Curry is seventh on this list (8.1 FTA per game in 06-07). In fact, Eddy Curry attempted more free throws in that year than Patrick Ewing did in ANY season of his career. I don't know about you, but I blame this on Joey Crawford.
Usage Rate: 2nd all-time - 34.7% (1st: Bernard King, 84-85 - 35.1%)
Once again, Melo bows to the King. Bernard led the league in usage rate during that season, and Melo has been leading the league for a while now. Last year's Melo comes in third on all-time list, at 31.8%, so this isn't exactly a surprise. It would probably serve Melo and the Knicks better if this number started dropping back into the lower thirties. The recent play of Amar'e Stoudemire could help here -- he's reemerging as a legit scoring option, especially with the second unit. It remains to be seen, however, whether Melo will start feeding STAT consistently. But hey, if STAT wants to continue kicking the ball out to a wide-open Melo for three, like he did in the Atlanta game, then you won't see me complaining either.
(Fun fact: Of the 14 highest-usage seasons in Knicks history, only three were turned in by someone other than Patrick Ewing or Bernard King -- '12-'13 Melo, '11-'12 Melo, '10-'11 Amar'e)