Now that the Knicks have finally found a suitor for Anthony, the book is closed on the ‘Melo era in New York. The Knicks acquired Carmelo in the middle of the 2011 season, and the forward spent 6 1/3 seasons with the team.
Initially after Carmelo’s addition, the team had reached a level of success that eluded them in the decade prior. New York made the playoffs in 3 straight seasons, reaching the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2013. However that year would be the high-water mark for Anthony’s Knicks. The team would average only 29 wins over the next 4 seasons, including a franchise low of 17 games in 2015 when an injured Carmelo missed 42 games.
It would seem from these facts that the Knicks were reliant on Carmelo in those years, rising and falling with their leading scorer. However this would be inaccurate. For instance, ‘Melo led the league in minutes per game in 2014, and yet the Knicks still fell 4 games short of .500.
The true story of the Knicks during the Carmelo Anthony era wasn’t defined by Anthony, but by his teammates and the moves made by the organization. New York performed extremely well in 2013 because they paired Anthony with Tyson Chandler, flanked with a young pair of guards in Shumpert and J.R., got career years from Pablo Prigioni, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland, a geriatric Jason Kidd, and filled out the depth of the team with players who could give timely production like Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Rasheed Wallace.
Unfortunately the year after the Knicks failed to build on their success, because they jettisoned many of these players (either due age, injury, or incompetence) and replaced them with sub-par players. The Knicks only had Chandler for 55 games, while Andrea Bargnani managed to play 1200+ minutes, and the end of the bench was filled with the likes of Beno Udrih, Jeremy Tyler, the animated corpse of Metta World Peace, and Toure’ Murry. The year after Chandler would be gone, Carmelo would get hurt, and the top minute getters for New York were Shane Larkin and Jason Smith. (Good goink Phil!)
The Knicks didn’t fail because of the narratives pushed by media and fans alike such as Carmelo undermined his coaches, his lack of defense, or his selfish play. They failed because the franchise was mismanaged from coach up to owner. The team lacked draft picks to help rebuild, partially because of the ‘Melo deal, but also because of other trades like the Andrea Bargnani disaster. New York had no first round pick in ’12 and ’14 and also had a low first pick in ’13. But their incompetence went beyond the draft as they acquired players (Shane Larkin, Jason Smith, Quincy Acy, Brandon Jennings, Sasha Vujacic, Derrick Rose, etc.) for roles greater than their production should warrant. In other words, they failed at all methods of building a team.
While the price for Anthony was high (and one I would not have paid), the Knicks didn’t seem to suffer immediately after. It could be argued that had the team been run competently from that point forward, the team would have seen a moderate amount of success. Certainly they would have made the playoffs in more than 3 of their years, and absolutely they should have avoided the catastrophic 65 loss season.
For his time in New York, Carmelo Anthony’s production was nearly identical to his production in Denver. The Knicks got the same player they saw in a Nuggets uniform, so it wasn’t a scenario where the star player let them down (*cough* Amar’e *cough*).
Ultimately ‘Melo was neither saint nor savior for this team. But he was not the cause of the team’s downfall either. The Knicks went all-in to acquire a scorer like Anthony in order to win now. They successfully followed that script for a short time, and it appeared the move would pay off for them. However like so many other opportunities in life, the devil’s in the details, and New York squandered their investment by behaving foolishly.
While I doubt that a Carmelo Anthony led team could win a championship, the Knicks could have had more exciting seasons like 2013 instead of what the fans were forced to endure over the last 4 seasons. Too bad ownership and the front office prevented that from occurring. Although given what I’ve seen since Dolan took full ownership of the team, I’m not surprised.