Carmelo Anthony has a new role on his (relatively) new team: that of the distributor. On a roster starved of solid point guard play (at least until Baron Davis arrives), Carmelo is taking it upon himself to run and control the offense, making his teammates better in the process.
This isn't the first time the NBA has seen bigger guys getting their teammates involved, with prime examples from the past being Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen. Of course, these two were on another level to anything Melo will ever achieve in the passing game but it is something to build towards. In the modern NBA, another scorer who tends to look to pass a lot as well is LeBron James. At the moment Carmelo is in the middle of the pack of small forwards with around 3 assists per game but if he takes this new role seriously he could be nearer to LeBron's 7.
Melo has a reputation as a ball-hog and being 'just' a scorer, but he has shown hints of being a good passer. In the pre-season we have seen Anthony bringing the ball up the court on a consistent basis. Whilst this isn't neccessarily indicative of him being a good point-forward, what is a good sign is things like this:
Balkman's thunderous dunk was undoubtedly Wednesday's play of the night but look who made the pass: Carmelo Anthony. All of the defenders' heads turned to Carmelo as soon as he got the ball and as a result Balkman was left free to cut to the basket. With Carmelo being such an offensive threat it won't be surprising if defenders end up paying almost too much attention to him on a nightly basis. If Carmelo can take advantage of this like he did here the offense will really open up.
But Carmelo has been a talented passer his whole career, not just this pre-season. We can turn the tape back to last season and to his days in Denver to see that he has always had a knack for finding the open man. We see here Carmelo threading the needle right through the heart of the Blazers defense with a powerful one-handed pass:
Another video shows that Carmelo was able to give a great pass to Jared Jeffries on St. Patrick's day, a pass so good that even Jeffries couldn't miss the lay-up:
Of course, we must remember that these are all highlight plays that bring out the very best in Carmelo's passing but it does go to show that he can do it and that he does have pretty good court vision. With scoring weapons like Amar'e Stoudemire and Toney Douglas in the starting line-up with him, and with Tyson Chandler as a potential pick-and-roll threat, Melo has a lot of players to look for on offense other than himself.
One of the big reasons that people are doubting Mike D'Antoni going into this season is that his typical offensive system used in previous years won't be able to be run with Carmelo holding the ball for 15 seconds. But if D'Antoni can somehow get Carmelo to actually run his offense and be the main component of it - rather than being a hinderance to it - we could see a scoring machine the likes of which the NBA has never seen.
Anthony's forte will always be scoring and there will inevitably be times where he keeps the rock and plays a bit of isolation ball. The great thing about this for us Knicks fanatics is that he's pretty darn good at that. The reigns of this team have all but transitioned from STAT's hands to Melo's now, so he will be left to make the decision to pass or to go it alone on every individual play. He's a smart player, especially on the offensive end, so I'm absolutely trusting that he'll make the right decision more often than he won't.
Carmelo has the pace to run the floor in 7 seconds and the skill to find the open man, all he needs to do now is to buy into the pass-first mindset. I said it in Wednesday's LBE and I'll say it again now; I think Carmelo can be a serious MVP candidate if he goes for this new point-forward role and plays at least average defense.
If there are any Knicks fans out there, readers and wiriters alike, who would be intersted in joining a Knicks Fanatics Fantasy League please tell me on the comments. I'm seriously short of players (i.e. just me) so any players would be welcome.