If Carmelo Anthony decides to leave the New York Knicks, the rookie small forward Cleanthony Early will have a golden opportunity to show off his talents as a competent three and make the starting lineup in his rookie season.
The Knicks seem to be in good hands as far as management is concerned, and fans can surely expect future moves that will better adjust their guard heavy roster. But the fact of the matter is right now the team has only one true small forward in Early.
The last couple of seasons, Anthony has obviously been the go-to guy, but the lack of depth at the position was always a problem causing the coaching staff to have to play small ball in order to fill the gap. Iman Shumpert and JR Smith took turns playing the three this past season, but neither of them had any post play or the size to compete toe to toe with 6-foot-7 or taller defenders. Here is where Early could thrive.
A versatile player, often the basic requirement for an NBA small forward, and standing 6-foot-8, the rookie has a box full of offensive tools. He’s capable of posting up and shooting from behind the arc efficiently. If Anthony does not return to the team after the free agency, it’s going to be on the rookie’s hands the task of bringing size and strength back to the position. He will have to show he is willing to learn the offensive system and do the hard work expected from a rookie, but with no other true small forward on the roster, he is probably going to get the starting gig after all.
To be honest, any outcome concerning Anthony is going to be beneficial for the rookie, considering he would be blessed to learn from the All-Star if he came back. However, I’m sure deep inside Early would love being the only guy for the job. How many second-round rookies have the opportunity to start for the Knicks at the most famous venue in the world?