Carmelo Anthony will be playing some small forward in 2013-14, but it would be a huge mistake if Mike Woodson made that 'Melo’s main position for the season.
You have to believe the New York Knicks will have Anthony at power forward as much as possible for a number of good reasons—if they know what’s good for them.
The Facts and Figures
First, there’s this, courtesy 82games.com:
Anthony had more field-goal attempts, a better accuracy, more points and a higher efficiency at power forward.
And more rebounds, too. A lot more rebounds: 8.9 vs. 5.0. Behind Tyson Chandler, Anthony had the second-most rebounds on the team.
No wonder the Knicks were better with Carmelo at the 4. Already ranked 25th, without those extra boards, New York would have been the worst rebounding team in the league.
Anthony was also drawing defenders down low, opening up the perimeter, as nba.com’s David Aldridge recounts: “When defenses have to scramble and double Anthony as a result, that, in turn, creates opportunities for other Knicks behind the 3-point line” [and closer].
OK. The assists are a problem, but that didn’t affect the bottom line—wins. Again, courtesy 82games.com.
Across the board, except for defense by 0.6 points, the Knicks were better. Forty of the team’s 54 wins were attributed to Anthony at power forward—and just 19 with him at the 3 (in some games he played both).
On top of all that, ESPN reported Anthony “will be training this offseason with Hakeem Olajuwon.” To hone his already strong post-up and pick-and-roll skills?
2 Points of Dominance in 2012-13
The Knicks began the season with Amar’e Stoudemire out, Ronnie Brewer at small forward and Anthony at power.
The month before, Grantland’s Zach Lowe asked, “Can Carmelo Anthony really play power forward?”
Lowe answered his own question:
Carmelo Anthony should play power forward, and Stoudemire’s injury gives New York cover to make that very tricky political move. The Knicks were wildly successful when Anthony slid to big forward late in the season [2011-12], when Stoudemire had to sit for a few weeks with a herniated disc in his back. Anthony tortured slower big men by taking the ball to the perimeter, especially on the wing, and blowing by them.
And so, 2012-13 opened with a dominant 20-7 run with 'Melo mostly at power forward.
Then, against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 25, Anthony was injured and would miss the next two games.
Both he and Amar’e Stoudemire returned on New Year’s Day, and Anthony returned mostly to small forward. Stoudemire had limited minutes but would come off the bench for Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas or the starting-PF du jour.
New York played to a 16-13 record before Stoudemire got hurt again.
After that disastrous 1-4 West Coast trip in which Anthony was out several games with an injury of his own, the Knicks went off.
With Anthony getting most of his minutes at power forward again, New York won 13 in a row and finished the season with a second dominant period: 16-2.
The Knicks aren’t just good with Anthony at power forward. They are one of the best teams in the league.
New York’s defense (opposing PPG) was slightly worse with Anthony at the 4, but Iman Shumpert was out all the way until mid-January and really didn’t start getting in the groove until the end of the season.
When Anthony is at power forward, Shumpert gets the start, usually at the 3.
It will be interesting to see if the Knicks' defense improves with an every-day starting lineup that has capable defenders in Shumpert and Chandler, and Pablo Prigioni as the second point guard.
They haven’t had that much time playing together as a starting unit, but the team plays well when they do.
At the 4, Anthony’s defense is improved too.
Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Anthony in the Olympics told ESPN:
To have the shooting and scoring ability that he has along with the physicality of his game...He can play defense on a power forward, but a power forward has a difficult time playing defense on him because he can lose you in transition.
Coach K continued: “[Carmelo] takes you into untraditional places for that position.”
So what happened with the Indiana Pacers in Round 2?
You can’t blame it all on the small-ball lineup that featured those four above and Raymond Felton.
There were several other incriminating factors in the series loss, including J.R Smith and Jason Kidd going AWOL, Chandler playing like a shadow of himself and the hasty Game 4 (11-point loss) lineup with Kenyon Martin (0 points) starting for Prigioni.
Roy Hibbert really came on, too, and it looks like he is going to be a (the?) premier center in the NBA.
Still, small ball was the only way the Knicks had a chance, especially with Amar’e Stoudemire barely a factor.
Which brings us to the problem.
How do the Knicks stop Stoudemire, and now Andrea Bargnani, from eating up Anthony’s power forward minutes?
Let’s start with trimming the (to be) 31-year-old Chandler’s minutes from about 33 MPG to 28.
As of now, New York still has no backup center, so they have to at least throw Bargnani in there, though defense and rebounding will suffer.
Stoudemire can play center, too, if need be. Woodson should give it a try. Also, Amar’e will be limited possibly to 20 minutes a night all season and no back-to-back games.
It’s probable the Knicks will sign another big man, preferably a rebounder. He’ll be a bit older, settling for the veteran’s minimum.
Between someone having to back up center, Stoudemire’s missed time and games and the inevitability of the Knicks’ four big men racking up some injuries, Anthony might find enough good time (and good times) at power forward—especially if Woodson mostly gives him the start there.