This season has been a failure for the New York Knicks. New York will miss the playoffs for the first time in four years, as the Knicks have been arguably the biggest disappointment in the NBA. There is much blame to go around within the organization, but All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony is not to be criticized for the Knicks’ issues. Often times, it is the superstar of the team who gets blamed.
The Knicks may be having a bad season, but Anthony is having one of the best seasons of his career. Had it not been for Kevin Durant’s MVP-caliber season, Anthony would be in the contention for the scoring title with his 27.5 points per game which ranks second in the league. Furthermore, Anthony’s rebounding numbers this season (8.2 rpg) are a career-high. However, Anthony’s teammates have failed to step up this season and have forced the All-Star to carry a heavier load than expected. Even newly-arrived team president Phil Jackson publicly acknowledged that Anthony has had to put the team on his back too much this season.
Many people are quick to criticize Anthony for not being a true superstar because he shoots a low percentage for the amount of points he scores in a game. However, the main reason why Anthony shoots a low percentage is because he has no choice but to shoot due to the lack of support he receives from his teammates.
The best way to understand this is to examine Anthony’s career numbers with those of the man he entered the NBA with in 2003, LeBron James. Both players have followed very similar trajectories in their careers — each began their careers with struggling franchises who they helped build into playoff teams. However, Anthony and James both became frustrated with the lack of production from their supporting casts. As a result, both All-Stars went championship-hunting to the big cities and left their previous teams with more enemies than friends. But since Anthony and James have arrived to their new destinations, their careers have taken very different paths.
Before Anthony arrived in New York and James went to the Miami Heat, both players shot very similar percentages from the field. While James was a 47 percent career-shooter, Anthony was a 46 percent career-shooter. Interestingly, James averaged 28.4 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers while Anthony only averaged 25 points per game for the Denver Nuggets.
However, those numbers have changed over the last four seasons. James still has a higher points per game average (26.9 ppg) since joining Miami, but the gap has shrunk as Anthony’s points per game average has risen to 26.2 with the Knicks. On the other hand, James’ has been a 55 percent shooter with the Heat and is now a 50 percent shooter for his career. As for Anthony, he has been a 45 percent shooter with the Knicks and is now a 46 percent shooter for his career.
The results could not be more different; Anthony has had four stressful seasons in New York while James has back-to-back NBA championships and is chasing a third straight title. Not to mention, James has also won back-to-back MVP honors and is in contention for a third straight.
The reason for the difference in both Anthony’s and James’ experiences is because of the supporting cast. Just glance at the rosters and the case is closed. While the Knicks have only one other potential Hall of Famer on their roster (Tyson Chandler), the Heat have three (Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen). Along with those three, the Heat have had several role players who have been keys to their championships (Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem). The consistent production from these role players has allowed James to become a more dominant and efficient player.
The Knicks must focus on keeping Anthony in New York and building the team around him. The Knicks are almost completely strapped down by contracts and poor draft picks this offseason, so most of this poor supporting cast will return next season. However, as seen by what has been done in Miami, a strong supporting cast is key to winning the title. Do not blame Anthony for these problems; blame the inadequate supporting cast of the Knicks for not helping Anthony become a better player and contend for an NBA championship.