So Melo’s future in New York is muddy. It’s so damn muddy.
He’s got a year left—two years, if he decides to pick up his 2018 player option—on the deal he signed in the summer of 2014, but could be playing for another team as early as this upcoming season. Though, the steep buyout may keep him in New York for one more season before he joins the so-called “Banana Boat Crew" next summer.
During the 2016-17 season, he clashed with Knicks brass both publicly and privately. He was the subject of several trade rumours at the deadline. He also went through some marital issues that, thankfully, seemed to have since been resolved.
All of these things landed his face on front pages and his names in headlines.
He also played basketball this season, and played pretty well. Whether you hope Melo retires as a Knick, or goes to join a contender this year, he stuck through some pretty tough times in New York, when he probably should have been playing for a contender. Whatever, everyone seems to have a different opinion on that. He is so polarizing.
Let’s take a look at his turbulent, and potentially ultimate season with the Knicks.
Outside of a few outliers, this season wasn't unlike recent seasons for Melo from a scoring standpoint. He usually scored in the 20’s, averaging 22.4 points a game, which is below his career average of 24.8 but higher than his 21.8 ppg from last year. These stats are generally superfluous because the team wasn’t going anywhere but they at least prove that he can still be an above-average scorer.
Melo shot 43% from the field, 35% from deep and 83% from the free throw line. He averaged 5.9 boards per game, 2.9 assists and had his lowest turnovers per 36 minutes since the 2013-14 season.
He grabbed 2.6% of available offensive rebounds, and 16% of defensive rebounds while on the floor. He picked up 9.3% percent of total rebounds per game, his lowest rate since the 2009-10 season.
Early on in the year, when the Knicks were actually winning games, Melo seemed as motivated as we had seen him in a while...on offense, at least. He played well in tandem with Derrick Rose, for the most part. Also, Kristaps Porzingis and Melo complemented each other very nicely.
So much so, that Melo was apparently “in awe” of KP.
Melo played 74 games this season which is his highest total since 2013-14. He played through a shoulder injury for a while, and could probably have shut his season down at that point. He didn’t, though, and ended up putting together some fairly good performances down that late stretch.
Of course, the rumours began to pop up and other distractions began to creep in. It got kind of ugly towards the end, but on the court, I think we can say Melo’s season was pretty solid and it definitely did not matter.
I think there are two. The first is a 35-point, 4-rebound and 4-assist game against the Pacers. He went 13-25 from the field included 7-11 from deep. It may not have been his most efficient game, but it was fun to watch.
The second is a far more efficient 35-point, 13-rebound and 5-assist performance in that overtime win against Charlotte on November 25th. He went 14-25 from the field, including 3-6 from deep. He also finished with two steals.
It was the first game of a back-to-back. In the SEGABABA, he did much worse.
As an honourable mention, I’d probably add the 4 OT game in Atlanta. But like, I’m trying so, so hard to never think about that game ever again.
Future in New York
He may have one more season here, but the rumours seem to be changing on an hourly basis so who the heck knows. I’d still label this situation as “fluid.”
My personal feeling about Melo is pretty simple. My analog is with college sports recruiting. Let’s say, your fave school picks up some 5-star high school phenom quarterback from near by. Kind of like Michigan did when they got a commitment from highly-rated Shane Morris in 2011. Everyone was hoping he’d be the program’s quarterback of the future, and guide them to a national title. It never worked out, and Morris has since transferred to Central Michigan. Instead, Michigan has been led by graduate transfer QB Jake Rudock, and Wilton Speight, a low-ranked recruit from Virginia.
Everyone wanted things to work out with Melo, just like Michigan fans wanted to see Morris be their guy. Melo has deep ties to New York, and was the superstar that I think everyone was super happy with when he joined in 2011. It worked out for a while, but for a bunch of different reasons, a truly contending team was never really built around him, and his tenure here is always going to be seen as a disappointment.
Now, the future of the Knicks appears to be in the hands of a gangly unicorn from Latvia, and the most unknown of unknown quantities from France. Not the perennial all-star from New York.
I’d also extend this analog to Phil Jackson. I really, really think people would have loved for Phil to lead the Knicks to contention. He played here and is obviously an NBA legend. It would have been cool, even I’d admit as much. But it never happened, and I’d much rather see the team succeed with someone with no special ties to the franchise, than one who does.
Whether you blame Melo for taking the max in 2014 and hamstringing the franchise’s ability to build around him or not. Whether you believe Melo is a victim in all of this or played a major role in it, you can’t deny that there were a lot of good moments with him here. It may be best for him to move on, but I think it’ll still be a sad day, whenever it’ll come.
That’s it, that’s what I had to say.
Now watch this. This was the best.