Hey everybody at P&T, have a seat. NO! Not that seat! Pervs.
I've built a nice little campfire here, don't worry it's contained so it won't spread, so we can all sit around here, shoot the shit, take some time out of our busy days and hash this debate out while we wait for this offseason to fucking end.
Good, glad I've got you here. We need to have a serious conversation about Melo at the 4. I like it. Some of you like it. Some of you aren't convinced of its effectiveness, and some of you just are obtuse about it. That's great, we're a community. I don't think your ideas are awful (well sometimes I do because I'm a prick), and I think that there is some merit to the idea that Melo is a Small Forward, but sometimes numbers don't like or tell all of the story.
A defense of Melo at the 4
Melo's biggest strength at the Power Forward "position" is the ability to stretch the floor because he is not a traditional power forward. His post of game is great and creates mismatches, he loves those damn isolations, and him at the PF position creates 4 large, credible three-point threats throughout the game.
Starting with his post game, I sadly do not have a subscription to synergy so I cannot pull how many times Melo posts up per game etc, but I do know the man does have a very credible post game. That plays into the ISO-Melo strategy that works at times, and man when the guy is hot he is hot. I know we all clamor against ISO-Melo, but to be fair that part of the game is going to stay when you have a shooter like Carmelo Anthony on the floor.
The next benefit to this is defense. Melo's never been "known" for his defense, but he is pretty good at it. By guarding power fowards Melo seems to put himself at a disadvantage because he is smaller than most PFs. Actually, Melo's post defense is better than most in the league and he uses his strength to bully power forwards and cause havoc for them. He forces them to take lower percentage shots (ie. the 20-22 foot jumper that I loathe, yet Walt Clyde Fraizer adores. This is another fanpost) because he can get dirty with them in the post game, and then Tyson Chandler has the interior on lockdown if PFs try to drive to the hoop. Melo turns this mismatch into one of the more valued assets, that the Knicks can have. Our defense was pretty middle of the road last year, but I think we'll continue to see the improvement Melo makes along with others in switches and creating mismatches.
Now the biggest one is the three point opportunities. I'm a big proponent of the massive amount of 3s the Knicks took last year. The Knicks 3 pointers made to turnover ratio was off the charts, and was a -107. That matters because for a "very good" NBA team that is usually around -500 or so. The Knicks should continue to play into this stretch as much as they can, and having Melo play PF certainly helps. The top 3 lineups with Melo at the 4 (based on at least 80 minutes together playing time ranked by net Points) were with net 3 point FG% and Net 3 pointers per 100 possessions are :
C. Anthony | T. Chandler | R. Felton | J. Kidd | J. Smith +6.7, +.133%
C. Anthony | R. Felton | K. Martin | P. Prigioni | I. Shumpert +9.6, +.091%
C. Anthony | R. Brewer | T. Chandler | R. Felton | J. Smith +7.6, +.204
(Side note here: Novak at the 4, actually brings down your 3PT%. Incredibly the Knicks averaged +20.4 pts/100 possessions but shot worse from 3. Go figure. Also they only played 50ish minutes together so whatever)
Clearly we notice a trend here. 3PT% goes up, as does the number of 3s taken and subsequently made vs the opponent. The Knicks vastly outshoot their opponents in 3s, and even though they were by far the league leaders in attempts: They were still 5th in the league in 3PT%. They didn't "regress" to league average, they kept up their .376% all season. That's big.
So here we have it a defense for starting Melo at the four. Should he play there the whole game? Nahhh.
SURPRISE HERES A DEFENSE FOR MELO NOT AT THE FOUR!!!
Andrea Bargnani and Amare' Stoudamire bring something very important to the Knicks when they will be inserted int he lineup: rebounding. Both of these players are very similar, and can play a "stretch 4" type role as well. Obviously this goes more for Bargnani than it does for Stoudamire. My point is, having these three play with Melo in a Tyson-Bargs/Stat-Melo frontcourt gives the Knicks a rebounding edge they don't get with may other lineups. Two of the top 3 5-man lineups Melo played with in terms of total rebounding had Stoudamire playing the power forward position.
The Knicks were a great rebounding team thanks to Tyson/Kmart, and the resurgence of JR Smith: guard-rebounder extraordinaire. The beauty of the Knicks versatility is they can insert a lineup of Felton-Smith-Melo-Amare'-Chandler and just start getting offensive and defensive rebounds like crazy when they seem to be getting abused in the paint.
Not surprisingly, that same lineup had a net Total Rebounding Percentage (per 100 possessions!) of +14.6 when on the floor. While Melo at the four stretches the lineup to create offensive versatility in terms of the ability for PGs to have space to drive to the hoop, while creating 4 very deadly 3 point shooters, and allowing for the high PnR with Chandler (guh I'm just gushing about Melo at the 4 now sorry), having a Melo-Amare/Bargs-Tyson front court does take away from the 3, but makes up for it with offensive and defensive rebounding.
It is by no means as offensively efficient as other Melo at the 4 lineups, but this would work fantastic as a "stopper" unit given Stoudamire's minutes limit and Bargs general "we don't know if he's going to totally blow-ness."
This is the unit you put on the floor when Melo and his gang of 3point busters give you a lead and you need to prevent the other team from scoring and make sure after a missed shot the ball ends up in the Knicks hands. I'd like to see Bargnani in this role getting rebounds, but also creating himself as a credible 3 point threat. I think having him play with Melo and Chandler in the front court may be the best of both scenarios actually and I'm relatively excited for Bargnani to play in this role. I just hope Woodson uses him accordingly.
Too long didn't want to read Summary!
The Knicks starting lineup ideally should be Felton-Prigs-JR (WOAH #STARTER AMIRITE) Melo-Chandler to get big leads in the game early. You can rotate Beno Udrih, Iman Shumpert, and MWP in accordingly to keep Melo at the 4. Then the second unit should include Felton-JR-Melo-Bargs/Stat-Chandler when we have a lead to keep it. Rotating everyone is going to be key, and Woodson has a heck of a task to give everyone minutes. I hope he continues to use the 3PT FG philosophy that worked so well for the Knicks, as we still have very many weapons there. I think the Knicks have the deepest rotation of anyone in the Eastern Conference (yes even over Miami), so maximizing mismatches will be Woodson's main job. He's got the versatility to combat any lineup that people throw out there whether its Indianapolis with a Hibbert-Hill-George big front court or a Bosh-Haslem-James smaller front court from Miami.
Tear me apart guys, but that's my ideal scenario for the Knicks. I would love to hear your thoughts, I know this was kind of long.