SB Nation’s Paul Flannery has nice write-up this morning lauding the overall brilliance of Carmelo Anthony’s game so far this season, and touts the legitimacy of Anthony as an MVP candidate in the young season.
Sure, there are still the occasional jab-step ISO step-back jumpers in his game, but as a catch-and-shoot threat on the wing he is every bit as pure as Kevin Durant. In the open floor he is a talented finisher. If you were new to the game and simply watching it unfold with little regard to shot charts or advanced metrics, you’d be left with one undeniable thought: Man, that guy is freaking good. No one has ever denied this.
I happened to catch the game in person last night, my first time at the Garden this season, and it really is something to see a player at that level make the game look as easy as Carmelo does. I can kind of imagine how frustrating it is to be as good at something as Anthony is at scoring — kind of, being the operative phrase, since I’m not nearly that good at anything –and yet taking the kind of heat that Carmelo has for most of his time in New York. At times there must be an instinct to think, “Are you guys serious right now? You really can’t see how awesome I am at this?”
Which isn’t to say there weren’t legitimate points of criticism, and genuine areas of improvement this season. The numbers bear out that Melo has been taking, and more importantly making, more threes than ever before, and eschewing long twos in favor of clean three-point looks and drives to the rim, all of which has helped to improve the already lethally efficient scorer he’s generally been throughout his career.
But I also think there’s less new here than many are claiming. Instead, we may be seeing that we can’t necessarily deduce how a player makes his teammates better by just looking at his assists — on that score, his assist rate is at a career low, but can it really be argued he’s not elevating the game of those around him? Carmelo Anthony may not be setting up his teammates, but his presence is the engine powering pretty much everything good happening with the Knicks this season.
He deserves all the credit he’s getting, and all the crow-soaked missives from buffoons like myself that ever convinced themselves there was something overly deficient about the guy.