It’s funny to me how even when the Knicks aren’t the topic of relevance, the media will insert arguments for or against (more often against) members of the Knicks organization. So of course, as the Cavs celebrated their 1st Finals appearance since 2007, the vitriol for #Knickstape arrived as scheduled. It went so far that a player, who’s also a former Knick, was doing media yesterday and Carmelo Anthony came up.
Jared Dudley appeared on ESPN radio and had the following criticisms of Melo – “Carmelo, he has the talent to be able to facilitate. The triangle should fit him to where he’s got to make guys better, and defensively he’s got to take it to the next level up.” It’s now a reality that JR Smith and Iman Shumpert might get a ring before Melo. Dudley highlighted that by continuing with “LeBron (James) with that (Knicks’) roster … he would have got them to the playoffs, he would have got them to at least the eighth seed.” He has since backpedaled and apologized which wasn’t necessary at all.
To be fair, Melo has improved on his defense. But this isn’t the first time Melo has been labeled as overrated nor will it be the last. As a lover of sports statistics, the more debateable topic is Melo’s overrated label is in reference to what or whom exactly?
It was tough to find specific information about the 2003 draft prospects. However, I love Syracuse basketball. I vividly remember Melo carrying the offensive load in that tournament run. Coming out as a freshman, Melo averaged 22 and 10 for the year. His assists were 2 per game (77 total for the year). Want to know something else about that Syracuse team? They were 2nd in the nation for both rebounds and blocks. They beat teams on both sides of the ball. With Carmelo, based off sheer statistics, whatever team drafted him was doing so with the knowledge that a) he needed the ball in his hands to be dominant and b) his teammates would be on their own in terms of offense.
Jumping ahead to 2013. Melo was named the NBA scoring champion. He attempted 22 shots per game, 6.9 rebounds per game, and a whopping 2.6 assists. In 67 games, he had 171 assists; one of the lowest of his entire career. To compare him to Lebron James, who has played with worst players, is unfair. James has been chided for deferring to teammates. He’s improved on his passing and has nearly double the assists average of Melo. So statistically, yes, Melo is overrated if the other player to choose from is the best basketball player on the planet.
That’s not why Melo is overrated in my eyes. I actually don’t hold him to some impossible comparison as others do. I rooted for Melo because he was the freshman star on my favorite college team. I root for him now because he plays for my favorite basketball team. However I am not a Melo fan as an individual basketball player. He doesn’t crack my top 5 of current players. I don’t own a Melo jersey. I wouldn’t break my neck to meet him if I saw him in a hotel lobby. I think Melo is overrated because he’s not a team player in small team sport. I’ve never viewed him as capable of being a player-coach the way Lebron has grown into. What makes it worst is that he refuses to admit that he’s a “me first” guy. For instance, Kobe Bryant doesn’t shy away from the fact that he’s selfish as hell. I respect that. Melo seems to get a pass on his stingy style of play. We all defer to “well he plays with scrubs, what do you expect him to do?”
When you carry your team to a national championship, you’re automatically appointed as a lottery pick regardless of your weaknesses. Consequentially, your entire career is analyzed at every turn. In the case of basketball, it’s natural to measure lottery picks against what their peers accomplish. Lebron James has been to 5 straight Finals. He has 4 regular season MVPs and is a 5 time All-Defensive First Team. Dwyane Wade has 3 rings and was the NBA scoring champion in 2009. Melo? He’s somewhat of an outsider between those guys.
The important thing is Melo has an opportunity to turn things around; albeit a very limited window. With the Knicks’ lottery pick and cap space to make significant upgrades, Melo can turn his legacy around. The team was blown up to make him the franchise’s foundation. So optimistically, the only way is to go up from here. At some point, the Knicks have to get something more out of bringing Melo to NY. Right?