Patchwork: On Carmelo Anthony's Career Trajectory

"After 7 years of rockin, yo, how do you rate me?
Poorly or greatly, everybody seems to be going for theirs lately,
Yo, mad heads be needin money,
So, listen very close as I conduct this little study..."
--KRS-ONE, Higher Level, from the Return of the Boom Bap album

After 10+ years of rockin (in Melo's case) as a professional -- 10 years of unapologetic running and gunning, spinning and grinning, posting and ... well, you know the rest -- after all that -- how does the basketball world rate Carmelo Anthony? What is Melo's game earning him in terms of career accomplishments, team success, and legacy? My view is that an upgrade is absolutely necessary to allow for progression in all three (3) areas; and so that all of us Knick-fanatics can get back to enjoying the games.

Melo is an artist among technicians and reactionaries who disproportionately work in his profession; for that, I appreciate the products he has provided us. Melo is a rarity in the NBA -- a streetballer who made it to the Association, while simultaneously escalating to top 5 status without very much compromise on his style, ways, and actions.

As each public persona goes, the media narrative on Melo's NBA career defines him; that narrative has taken shape as follows: Carmelo Anthony is 1 of the NBA's best scorers; but can he lead a team to the NBA Finals? ... outside of the honorable Posting and Toasting blog (and lesser NYK-centric blogs), I have not heard many positive things said about him beyond that. Well, I have an idea that can change all that; but, first, some premises:

  • The dribble-back down post offense is old, tired, and not efficient enough against the good teams to continue with it.
  • Melo is 1 of the most dynamic finishers at the rim (in the half court set) that the NBA has ever seen; his creativity is not being tapped into as much as it needs to be to fill his team's requirement.
  • Melo is a highly underrated post defender and shot blocker
  • There is definitely enough talent on the current roster to win and finish the season as a Top 4 team in the Eastern Conference.
    • At that point, the depth to which we reach in the playoffs will come down to coaching -- not the talent
  • Coach DrunkBeard is probably not going to come up with any creative solution, so it really is up to Melo to lead by sacrificing his touches and taking on a new role. However, to ask that Melo not shoot so much does not define a way ahead; so, how does his sacrifice play out?

From my perspective, Melo's energy needs to be spent in the paint on both ends of the court.

Defensively, Melo's highly-rated hand-eye coordination and craftiness needs to consume a significantly greater amount of his energy. Instead of expending energy trying to score 27ppg, Melo needs to strive for 27rpg; Melo needs to restructure the Knick floor-game by taking on post challenges (proportionate to his size) and crashing the defensive boards. Providing defensive effort when you are personally motivated to do so (as opposed to doing it as the standard), simply is not good enough, and it has not been good enough for 10 years.

On offense, the Knicks need a system that continues the P&R routine between and the Primary Scorers (Bargnani/STAT/Melo, in that order), while the Complimentary Scorers (JR, Shump, Hardaway, and those Primary Scorers not in on the P&R) remain ready to catch and shoot at the 1st good shot opportunity. Meanwhile, Melo's mindset needs to switch from being THE Primary Scorer to being A Primary Scorer -- and when not a Primary Scorer, Melo needs to perfect crashing the offensive boards (in this role, I imagine Dennis Rodman with an exquisite ability to finish those putbacks). As an aside, I think Shump needs to take this approach, as well, while the other 3 on the court have the responsibility of getting back on Defense.

This is a great sacrifice; and a 180 degree turn from the norm; and probably not a very popular idea to Melo and that which he is used to. However, in order to grow, progress, and lead his team, Melo needs to change his outlook and make a fundamental shift in the way he approaches the game. The good things are: 1) Carmelo is built for this shift, and 2) Melo will still be the leader and maintain a high ppg average, but the points will be brought about in a more efficient manner.

If Melo doesn't upgrade his gameware, he runs the risk of becoming no different than any other artist who is unwilling to adjust to the new realities and repackage products, and who is then frustrated when success levels drop and she/he becomes obsolete.

To bring it back to basketball-specific terms, Melo is going to become Dominique Wilkins-like or Michael Jordan-esque -- the crossroad is here and the time is now. As Irving, George, Love, etc, continue to creep up on his NBA status, Melo needs to reprogram if he wants to remain highly relevant and become a legendary historic figure in the annals of basketball.

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