The past nine years have led to some interesting discussions about the quality of both players, but now there's a new twist in the developments.
In a league where so many teams are now going with smaller lineups—in some cases to the extent of "positionless basketball"—the two now often find themselves playing at power forward for their respective teams.
As a three-time MVP and, most recently, an NBA champion, James has earned the right to call himself the better overall player at this point. However, there's still debate to be had as to who is more suited to their new role at power forward.
So, who exactly is the better power forward—Melo or LeBron? Let's take a look.
First, both players have fantastic offensive ability. Due to their speed and strength, they are a matchup nightmare for opposing forwards.
Despite their positions, neither plays the full-time role of the traditional power forward on offense. James is a distributor for the Heat, and, at times, Anthony plays more of the role of a stretch 4 for the Knicks.
When in the post, however, the edge goes to Anthony. Melo has built a strong post game over the course of his career. Here, he puts up 43 points against the Bulls by utilizing both post skills and his face-up game depending on the matchups:
Playing with his back to the basket is now a genuine scoring option for LeBron, but Anthony's game is still more developed in that sense.
Melo's spin move is still one of the hardest to defend in the NBA when he establishes position in the post:
On defense, the edge goes to LeBron. Power forward is one of the many positions he can guard, and he's seen here shutting down the Lakers' Pau Gasol:
With his unprecedented strength and athleticism, James is capable of defending almost any player on the court, which has earned him All-Defensive honors for each of the last four years. Anthony, however, has a reputation for lazy defense, which is clearly highlighted here:
For his career, LeBron has always pulled down more rebounds than Anthony and appears to have more determination when it comes to crashing the glass. In a Heat lineup with no real center, he's relied upon to pull down as many as possible, whereas Anthony benefits from the help of Tyson Chandler.
So far this season, Melo has one-upped LeBron, leading the Knicks to a blowout victory over the Heat in Friday's season opener:
Anthony has clearly improved his play defensively, and, with Amar'e Stoudemire out, is continuing to develop as a power forward. In April, the last time he saw significant time at that position, he ended up winning the player of the month award. If he keeps this up, he'll have a shot at winning it again this month.
On the whole, though, LeBron is the superior power forward. Anthony has the offensive edge by a small margin. Defensively, it's a no contest in favor of LeBron.
That said, if Anthony can continue to make strides on that end of the floor—as well as on the boards—things may change come season's end.
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