Doesn’t matter how many moves the New York Knicks manage to make with their very limited cap situation; all their hopes of somehow getting back to the NBA finals are like waves that crash upon a shore only to be repelled back into the sea, as a team with Carmelo Anthony as its number one player can’t and won’t be challenging for a championship.
Carmelo Anthony is going to end up in the hall of fame. One of the most gifted scorers the NBA has seen, but a player that can’t change his ways, and can’t make players around him better. Does he deserve the $20 million and change he makes every season? Yes. He guarantees a team makes the playoff (at least until now in his career), but he makes it impossible for a team to play any other way than one: Pass the ball to ‘Melo, and hope everything works out.
Anthony led the NBA in scoring last season with 28.7 points per game, leading the Knicks to their first 50-win season since 2000 and their first playoff series victory since the same season. But does that make the Knicks title contenders? Nope. Despite their strong start to last season, followed with the hype of beating the Miami Heat three times and actually playing some defense when the season began, the Knicks showed who they really are in the playoffs.
Who? A team that relies on one player alone to play defense; Tyson Chandler. Iman Shumpert is a good perimeter defender, and Metta World Peace is obviously going to help next season in whatever role is designated to him, but once again the Knicks have a squad without true balance, and with too many players besides Anthony (Stoudemire, Bargnani, J.R. Smith) who bring too little to the table besides their scoring ability.
But expectations in New York are always high. Even if it’s a team without the ability to go forward with a real change. Anthony isn’t suddenly going to become a point forward who stops posting up and doesn’t swallow entire 24-second possessions by dribbling his defender to the basket. Raymond Felton isn’t going to become less-flawed point guard at this stage in his career. Tyson Chandler isn’t getting any younger, and we saw what happens to him when he faces someone like Roy Hibbert, thanking someone there’s only one of him in the Eastern Conference.
So where are the title hopes coming from? Because it’s New York, and because Anthony is always going to be someone who certain people expect to show more than he has so far in his career, which is being an excellent scorer and mismatch nightmare, but the problem is, the Knicks’ direct rivals – the Heat, Bulls and Pacers all have someone who makes Anthony look a little less brilliant.
Conclusion? Anything beyond the conference semifinals will be a surprise. The Knicks should be playing the same predictable basketball, which works for players who don’t need team-basketball to score, but eventually succumb to their own offensive limitations, not to mention defensive weaknesses and laziness.
Amare Stoudemire might suddenly become the player he was before Anthony got traded to New York, but probably not. Bargnani might suddenly stop being one huge disappointment whenever it comes to rebounding and defense, but probably not. Those are the wildcards and difference makers for the Knicks, and betting on these horses doesn’t seem like a wise thing to do.