It's hard to shoot accurate jump shots on weary legs worn out from 38 minutes of doing everything yourself. Carmelo Anthony knows. Brilliant in the first quarter, ordinary in the fourth, Anthony played more minutes per game than anyone in the league last season, but not all of them were great.
If Derek Fisher wants to get four stellar quarters out of 'Melo and better production from the entire Knicks squad, he must first make sure his backcourt is committed to the triangle offense—and all the ball movement and quick cross-court cuts it requires. Then he should play Anthony at the 4 and bestow the 3 upon one of the team's speedy swingmen (whichever ones are actually left when the Knicks are done with the backcourt refurbishment that ESPNNewYork's Ian Begley reports is still in progress).
With these changes, Fish can turn Carmelo's jumperpalooza into a diverse game with more chances to post up. Plus, as another ball-handler in the triangle, 'Melo can create better scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Last season, Anthony averaged 38.7 minutes per game, but he wasn't fresh as a daisy the full time. While he averaged 8.2 points and a 47.9 field-goal percentage in the first quarter, he dropped to 5.7 points and 38 percent by the fourth. Quite a dip, but rather forgivable considering what the man was asked to do during the first three quarters.
His teammates struggled with their accuracy, so he had to do most of the scoring. Because of minimal ball movement and a team-wide reluctance to drive the lane, 'Melo also had to create those scoring opportunities for himself. Only 38.6 percent of his field goals were assisted. That must hurt his feelings a little. Other forwards on the scoring leader board have more help, like Kevin Durant (47.2 %AST), LeBron James (41.6) and Kevin Love (65.5).
Without any help opening up a path to the hoop, Anthony settled for jump shots. He put up 1,033 jumpers this past season. Durant had only 813, James 533.
The right offense could change all of that.
In the triangle, every player must put the ball and themselves in motion. Nobody can simply park in an open patch of hardwood and wait. Nevertheless, it's the point guard and the boys at the wing who need the quick feet and super flexo-knees most of all.
'Melo is stronger more than he is quick. So instead of wearing out his star's legs that way, Fisher should move him from the 3 to the 4 and keep his legs fresh for shooting.
The small forward position could be filled by Iman Shumpert (if he isn't traded), Cleanthony Early (if he matures quickly), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (if he makes the roster) or perhaps even Dahntay Jones. Jones, a veteran free-agent guard-forward most recently with the Atlanta Hawks, is expected to work out for the Knicks this week, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
A well-run triangle creates great spacing on the court. Fisher can give Anthony even more space to post up by putting a player at the 5 who is enough of a mid-range or perimeter scoring threat to draw defenders away from the bucket and leave a path open for 'Melo.
They could also run the reverse. Use the threat of Carmelo's killer three-point stroke as a decoy to pull the defense's big men away from the hoop.
This could be a particularly good fit for the Knicks right now, because they've got more forward-centers—those "stretch-the-floor 4s"—than they do traditional centers. Andrea Bargnani, Amar'e Stoudemire and newly signed center-forward Jason Smith can then all be candidates for starting at the 5—instead of just the traditional centers, Samuel Dalembert and Cole Aldrich. In this system, Jeremy Tyler and Kenyon Martin (if he's re-signed) could also be good options off the bench at the 4 or 5.
When that triangle ball movement becomes as natural for the Knicks as saying "dishing and swishing" is for Walt Clyde Frazier, all the boys in blue and orange will create more scoring opportunities for one another, instead of just running isolation plays for No. 7.
Anthony is a natural shooter, dangerous on every inch of the court, even when facing heavy protection. Yet just because he can do it doesn't mean he should be doing it every play. The idea is to get 'Melo easier shots and use him not only as a scorer, but as a decoy and a playmaker.
If Fisher can accomplish that, New York fans might be able to renew the slim postseason hopes that were so cruelly dashed in April.
Follow Sara Peters on Twitter @3FromThe7.