The challenge of getting Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to mesh on offense — to get the Knicks playing well when the two of them and Tyson Chandler are all on the court — remains the key to the entire season on the island of Manhattan.
But not the start of the season. With Stoudemire out at least the first week or two of the regular season, the Knicks plan to slide Anthony to the power forward spot — where he was a force last season and was for Team USA this summer.
In the past Anthony has said he didn’t want to play the four, but the question was did he mean that because he thought it would take him off the wing or was it because he was trying to protect Stoudemire. Looking at his quote via the New York Daily News, sounds like Anthony was thinking protection.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be there,” Anthony said on Sunday about the power forward spot. “I don’t have no problem. I’ve played it last year. I played four-five the whole summer. I have no problem playing that position. It’s just a matter of us having guys at that position with Amar’e being healthy and things like that and Kurt Thomas and Rasheed (Wallace). So now I guess it’s back to the drawing board with me at the power forward position.”
The Knicks are going to have to deal with the political issues of playing Anthony at the four and what to do with Stoudemire, because if it’s about putting guys where they play their best and winning, there has to be more Anthony as the power forward. All season long, not just with Stoudemire out. This has to be a regular part of the rotation.
Zach Lowe did a fantastic post on this at Grantland, a must read for Knicks fans, breaking down the numbers and video of Anthony at the four spot.
Considering only lineups that logged at least 15 minutes last season, the Knicks scored 110.6 points per 100 possessions and allowed 104.6 with Melo at power forward — a net plus-six, a margin typical of one of the league’s five or six best teams…. Remove two qualifying lineups featuring Steve Novak and Tyson Chandler, thus isolating lineups in which Melo played with three traditional guards, and you get a stingier result: 108.3 points per 100 possessions/102.3 allowed.
Anthony is at his most dangerous when he gets the ball out on the wing and drives the lane, resulting in him getting to the rim, getting fouled or shooting a midrange shot which can be very effective. The theory is he is more likely to drive on a slower power forward defender than a quicker small forward. What you want to avoid is Anthony settling too often for getting the ball on the wing and just taking the 20-foot jumper.
It’s still not a perfect solution because Anthony is not a great defender, especially help defender, so you need Chandler out there to cover some of his mistakes. And then there remains the Stoudemire questions — do you bring him off the bench? Maybe play him some at the five with a small and speedy lineup (although an Anthony/Stoudemire front line would be a defensive disaster).
I expect as the season wears on the Knicks are going to find Anthony at the four is their best, or at least one of their best, lineups. And they are going to have to find a way to use it a lot. Whatever the challenges it creates in the locker room.