Two perceptions of Carmelo Anthony have a lot to do with the players around him and the head coach he has, and often are less about him: Anthony being a ball hog, and Carmelo being terrible in the fourth quarter last season for the New York Knicks.
The answer to both these issues come from one thing: The ball in Anthony’s hands, and what happens around him when he has possession. Anthony was shooting above 45% from the field last season through the first three quarter of each game, but dropped to 38.2% from the field in the fourth quarter. As a team, the Knicks dropped from just over 45% to about 43% from the field in the final period of the game.
Two things make the difference here: Overuse through the first three quarters and predictability. Anthony needs more scoring from his teammates earlier on in the game, so he doesn’t reach the fourth quarter on his hands and knees. Derek Fisher will have to devise and offensive system that sometimes goes around Anthony and not always through him, while making other players a reliable end target to get two or three points.
But what if Anthony wants and demands the ball in his hands each time? NBA stars have been around forever, and the league, except for a few exclusive cases (again, the San Antonio Spurs), dictates that the final possessions go through the superstar of a team. LeBron James took a lot of heat for trying to go against that trend over the years. Anthony has never been shy of taking the final shot or holding on to the ball for too long. Fisher, maybe as a vessel for Phil Jackson, needs to make the Knicks a bit more surprising in how they move the ball.
Anthony is probably the best isolation scorer in the NBA with 6.6 points per game through isolation plays last season. However, the Knicks were one of the worst teams in the league when it came to moving the ball around last season (24th in touches) an in creating points through assists (25th). The Knicks are going to use the triangle offense next season, which in theory should help both Anthony not work so hard for his points, and the Knicks as a team to generate some open looks for other players.
This is Anthony’s team, for better or worse, for the next five seasons. It means playing with a roster that doesn’t look too promising for at least one more year before the Knicks have more room to start making some substantial changes. Still, there is room for hope, but it also means the Knicks stop playing like Anthony is the only guy out there who can score. Teams win championships and games, not individual players. If last season taught us anything, it’s that.