New York Knicks: Better Without Carmelo Anthony?

It’s possible Carmelo Anthony is becoming the problem and not the solution for the New York Knicks.

For the New York Knicks, despite the turn in calendar year and a chance at a fresh approach to making the playoffs, their season is unravelling.

They’ve lost five straight and eight of the last 10 to fall out of postseason contention for now.

Monday night’s home loss to the Orlando Magic represented a new low, with the Knicks allowing their opponents to make 15 three-point attempts.

That tally was a season high for Orlando and in the process New York made Jodie Meeks look like an All-Star (23 points, 6-of-7 from long range).

All is not lost, however, as Kristaps Porzingis sat out his second straight game with a sore Achilles.

Already the team is feeling his absence, although role players such as Willy Hernangomez and Lance Thomas have done an admirable job of plugging the holes when asked to.

Jan 2, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) is defended by Orlando Magic guard D.J. Augustin (14) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

One player who is beginning to polarize opinion as the Knicks’ season limps on is Carmelo Anthony. The 32-year-old superstar is failing to get his team out of tough spots like on so many occasions in the past.

Although still a superb offensive player, have the Knicks actually outgrown their talisman and is looking to trade him an option they should explore?

Before going any further it should be noted that Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract, meaning that as long as he is under contract, the team cannot move him without his consent.

But leaving the Knicks may actually work out well for both sides, if only Anthony would embrace playing away from a massive market like New York.

From the team’s perspective however, it’s clear they have something with their current roster, minus Anthony.

When ‘Melo is on the court, he has a usage rate of 28.8 (team-high) and an assist rate of 14.3 (lowest mark in four years). The ball sticks in his hands too much, although there is nothing new in that.

It is also why his scoring average for the season (21.8 points) is identical to last year. Where the differences begin are with what else he’s doing on the court for the team.

Last season, Anthony averaged 7.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. This year, those numbers have fallen to 6.1 and 2.8, respectively.

Anthony’s offensive ability is great at bailing this team out of tight spots and against the Magic he helped keep them above water for three quarters with some timely makes.

But his effectiveness is waning, to the point where he’s almost like a luxury for a team with an up-and-coming player like Porzingis.

The same is also true of veterans Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but at least Rose has regained some electric form around the basket and Noah provides heart on the defensive end.

They may not be the players they once were, but within the ecosystem of this team, they don’t stick out as much and fit with some schemes the team uses.

Back to Anthony, though, and his Player Efficiency Rating of 18.4 (league average 15), the third-lowest mark of his career (ahead of only his first two years in the league).

His offensive plus/minus of 1.8 is also the lowest posted since the 2008-09 season, when he was a member of the Denver Nuggets.

He cuts a frustrated figure out there at times as well, with more evidence of this in that loss to the Magic.

After initially signalling for a clear out to go one-on-one with the streaking Aaron Gordon, Anthony then called for a screen from Kyle O’Quinn and was annoyed when he did not get one.

He was forced into a tougher shot, which he failed to make. Again this is not to say Anthony is a bad player.

He is just becoming less effective (not surprising given his age and time in the league) and an increasingly bad fit with his current employers.

Contrast this with when Anthony was on the bench. The Knicks looked smoother on both ends, with everybody getting more touches.

Rose and Brandon Jennings made plays, Noah and O’Quinn got touches around the basket, even Mindaugas Kuzminskas nailed all three of his long-range efforts.

Courtney Lee looks like he has more freedom on the court to carry some of the offensive load and the ball does not stick for long periods of time.

That offensive activity had the Magic penned in, as they weren’t sure if a Rose drive or Thomas jump shot was coming their way next.

If Anthony could also embrace becoming more of a specialist, he too could enjoy a departure from this team and potentially win a ring elsewhere before retiring.

His massive contract is always going to be a stumbling block (he’s in the third year of a five-year, $124 million deal with an early termination option for the last year), but with all of the television rights money in the league today, it’s not the problem it once would have been.

He wouldn’t have to come off the bench or even take too much of a back seat offensively. But if he became a team’s second option and passed the ball more, he could win big.

Then again, if he was to start doing that for the Knicks now, they would surely move back into postseason contention and quickly.

That’s always been Carmelo Anthony’s problem, though, but in today’s pace and space era, it looks more evident than ever.

The New York Knicks are not as bad as you think they are, it’s just ironic their one-time savior has become a part of the problem and not the solution.

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