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In Denver, Carmelo Anthony often got credit for his teammates’ stellar play. Melo had a trick: by scoring a lot of points, he was able to mask that he wasn’t that productive. Of course, this trick relied on the other players on the team being productive. Now with Melo in New York, the Knicks are not doing very well. As the Nuggets are doing well without Melo and the Knicks are doing poorly with him, the blame seems to be pointing at Melo. The truth is that Melo is actually playing at an above average level in New York. The real person that both New Yorkers and Melo should be mad at is Amaré Stoudemire, and it turns out he is beating Melo at his own game.
Amaré tricks people into thinking he’s good by shooting a lot
When Amaré was at his best in 2008, he was an amazing scorer and a darn good rebounder. But after 2008 he had a sharp drop in his production. His amazing scoring took a hit and his rebounding declined. In 2010 some of his rebounding returned, but neither that nor his scoring was enough to make him truly great. When he went to New York, his scoring efficiency went down considerably, but by taking a lot of shots he was able to convince a lot of fans and media that he was an All-Star, All-NBA and MVP-worthy player.
Amaré’s 25.3 points per game last season probably reminded many of Amaré’s 2008 season when he placed 6th in MVP voting. There’s a significant difference though: in 2008, an average center taking the same number of shots per game as Amaré did would have scored 20.8 points per game. In 2009, an average center taking Amaré’s number of shots would have scored 24.3 points per game. However, the Knicks didn’t seem to notice and that brings up another funny part of the Amaré and Melo story in New York.
Amaré drives out productive players
Chauncey Billups is a shell of his former self and that is because he’s aged. That said, he was still an above average point guard last season and is still close to average this season. In order to afford Chandler and keep Amaré, the Knicks decide to amnesty Mr. Big Shot. The problem with this is that the Knicks have no real other options at point guard. Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas have been given the reigns at point guard and have played terribly. Much like the decision to keep Melo resulted in Marcus Camby being let go for very little, the decision to keep Amaré meant that Chauncey Billups got let go for nothing.
The key difference
The basic difference between Melo in New York and Melo in Denver is that the Denver teams have been much better than New York teams. Last season the Knicks got lucky in that Landry Fields played amazingly, Raymond Felton and Chauncey Billups were productive guards and Melo and Gallinari were ok at the small forward spot. This season the old Landry Fields has disapeared, Felton and Billups have been let go, and Melo is still ok at the small forward spot. The Knicks did luck into Tyson Chandler — who is playing amazingly at center — but the problem is that, with only one great player and very weak players at two positions, it’s ridiculous to assume the Knicks can compete.
In the end, Melo is very much getting what he deserves. Another player is using his exact same tricks, but this time Melo is getting the blame instead of the credit. Of course, Melo should still be mad that Amaré forgot to emulate the most important part of the trick of looking productive by scoring lots of points — and that is to have very productive teammates.