The collection of multiple star players on the same team has been the growing trend for the NBA over the past decade. LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, as well as joining Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love this past offseason, while Dwight Howard joined forces with James Harden last season in Houston.
The New York Knicks are attempting to pull off a similar type of union next summer, when Phil Jackson looks to use the roughly $25 million in cap space to sign a few star players. Rumors are pointing towards Marc Gasol possibly leaving the Memphis Grizzlies to anchor the Knicks’ front court. Other possible signees include LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, or Jimmy Butler, all of whom are stars if not superstars in today’s game.
However, the one caveat for any player wishing to play in the Big Apple is that they would be joining a team captained by someone already, someone who is the face of the franchise and will clearly remain the cornerstone of the Knicks game plan during his tenure as a member of the Knicks.
That may pose a problem.
It’s a widely known fact that Carmelo Anthony will generally spend the most amount of time with the basketball during a game. And why wouldn’t he? Anthony is being paid about $23 million a year, which is roughly more than a quarter of the Knicks payroll. It’s safe to say that unlike Wade in Miami, Anthony will not be taking a step back in his role as the primary scorer on the team.
Last season, if point guards were removed from the equation because they obviously handle the basketball the most, Anthony was ranked 10th in total touches at 5,412. He was second in the league in scoring at 27.4 points per game, so it wasn’t as if the high volume of touches led to negative production.
However, the Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time in three years last season. Mike Woodson’s isolation-offense led to the other players, such as J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, becoming less productive in the game, which led to Anthony having to play the highest amount of minutes per game in the league at 38.7.
Carmelo Anthony needs help from other star players in order for the Knicks to have any hope of making the playoffs next season. The addition of a LaMarcus Aldridge to shoulder some of the scoring load, the impact of a Marc Gasol on the team’s putrid defense, or the raw athletic ability of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard could definitely help the Knicks reach the next level.
But the question is, why would a free-agent purposefully join forces with Carmelo Anthony, a player who has made it out of the first round twice in 11 seasons? Could Anthony’s unwillingness to share the wealth have anything to do with his non-success in the postseason?
Let’s look at the other small forward superstars in the league. LeBron James is averaging 7.4 assists per game this season. Kevin Durant, who has missed more than half of this season, averaged 5.5 assists per game last season en route to his first MVP. The most assister per game that Anthony has ever averaged for a season is 3.8 in the 2006-07 season, which was arguably his best season ever.
If Anthony wants to recruit other star players to play for the Knicks, he has to assure them that their role will not be minimized. But if he’s only averaging 3.1 assists per game for his career, why would any free-agent believe that Anthony will be able to maximize their potential as a team?
A clearer picture of Anthony playing with other superstars came in the 2012 Summer Olympics, in which U.S.A. won a gold medal in basketball. Anthony was second on the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game coming off the bench. His main role was to score, which was a situation that Anthony thrived in.
But when placed in a situation where he’s forced to facilitate, get other star players involved, and sacrifice parts of his game for the betterment of the team, Carmelo Anthony doesn’t seem to have that ability inside him. It isn’t a knock against him as a person or as a player; some players are just meant to be scorers and not all-round players.
If that’s the case, Anthony going to be looking at a very long, star-less Knicks team for years to come.