As we approach the midway point of the 2012-13 NBA season, the race for MVP heats up. Among the main candidates for the most coveted individual award in the league is Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.
Although always considered to be an elite player and a superstar, Melo's emergence as a leading candidate has surprised many. His improved defense, increased intensity and surprising unselfishness has helped New York to a fast start.
However, Anthony's application isn't perfect. He has already missed seven games of the 38 New York has played. One has been due to suspension and six have been due to minor injuries. This is especially noticeable when opposed to the two other leading candidates for the award: Lebron James and Kevin Durant.
Lebron has played all of the Heat's 38 games this year while Durant hasn't missed any of his team's 40 games. Melo has played 36.2 minutes per night, while the other two have played 39.8 and 38.2, respectively.
So, does Melo's inferior durability put him at a significant disadvantage? The short answer is no.
There is, of course, also a long answer. In analyzing his value, there are the results the Knicks acquired without Melo. New York beat down on the Miami Heat the first time their superstar was out.
However, two nights later they lost to the Chicago Bulls.
The Knicks then barely squeaked out a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, got beat down by the Houston Rockets, edged out the Phoenix Suns on a last-second shot and dropped a close one to the Sacramento Kings and lost to the Pacers by five points.
The Heat game aside, these results serve to show exactly how important Melo is to the team. The Knicks are 22-10 with Carmelo on the court, and 3-4 without him. More importantly though, the Knicks simply haven't been able to put forth their basketball without him.
With Melo on the bench, New York has been lackluster on offense and relied too heavily on the sporadic shooting of J.R. Smith. Smith has been outstanding for the Knicks in his sixth man role, but he can't be a consistent first scoring option.
The award is called Most Valuable Player. Not best player (because Lebron is far and away the best player in the league and in the world). Under the true definition of the award, Melo's lack of durability when contrasted to the other two stars actually shows just how valuable he has been.
That is not to say he is more valuable as we haven't seen the Heat and Thunder without their stars, but this at least shows that the Knicks simply can't maintain the level of a No. 2 seed without Melo.
Not even close.
If he continues to miss games, it will become a problem, but if his missed game total remains in the single digits for the remainder of the season it shouldn't be held against him. That isn't to say he will, or should, win the award, though.
The King is playing the best basketball of anyone in the world (and likely of his own outstanding career) and Durantula can't stop putting up wins for the 32-8 Thunder.
Melo has increased his defensive intensity. He is shooting superbly from behind the arc, playing unselfishly while still using isolation plays when necessary and he is a true leader.
In fact, he missed two games because he followed a loose ball into the stands.
It just won't be enough to take down two of the better players we've ever seen. His loss just won't be because he missed a few games.