Carmelo Anthony’s best season with the New York Knicks was 2012-13. Is it mere coincidence that’s the only year of the eight-time All-Star’s career in which he primarily played power forward? If his recent words are any indication, New York president Phil Jackson doesn’t seem to think so.
Just a few days before the Knicks open training camp, Jackson touched on the role that his star player will occupy in 2015-16 – and all but confirmed Anthony will play a majority of his minutes at power forward. Here’s the Zen Master courtesy of ESPN’s Ian Begley:
“One of the reasons why we really thought Robin [Lopez] would be the best fit for us as a center was that it would allow us to be more flexible as a team and Carmelo can play more of a ‘4’,” Jackson said on Friday. “As opposed to maybe a Greg Monroe who is not the same size, not the same defensive player.”
“A lot of how Carmelo is going to approach the game is who’s going to guard him and the matchups that go along with that process,” Jackson said. “One of our reasons to get [free agent Derrick] Williams was the fact here’s a guy 6-8 who can play 3s, 4s, interchangeable, has the speed and activity to play with or for Carmelo in any situation.”
Anthony started at small forward for New York last season, and toggled between forward positions while his teammates battled injuries in 2013-14. Though it’s unfair to submit that the 6’8, 240-pounder’s move back to the wing contributed to his poor performance and subsequent knee injury in his initial campaign under New York’s new regime, it goes without saying that so many years of wear and tear has sapped him of quickness and explosion.
Considering that reality, Anthony’s past poor performance as a nominal 4, and the construction of the Knicks’ roster, it certainly makes sense that Jackson and Derek Fisher think it’s time for another position change. As New York’s president so astutely points out, the presence of Robin Lopez – a true center who’s a capable rim-protector and active rebounder – is likely to mitigate negative effects of a natural wing banging with opposing big men. And then there’s the prospect that Anthony might be best-suited guarding interior players as opposed to exterior players, anyway – a likelihood that could make the acquisition of fellow combo forward Derrick Williams more significant than it seems on the surface.
We’ve long been in favor of Anthony moving to power forward full-time. His incredible offensive gifts are more impactful from both individual and team perspectives at that spot, and he’s long proven a dogged post defender and ardent rebounder – when he wants to be, of course.
There comes a time in many players’ career when a position switch could be warranted, and Anthony, entering his 13th season, has reached it. That’s not necessarily indicative of any new glaring new deficiencies in his game, either, but something closer to the recognition of a shift in the league’s collective ideology.
The Knicks need Anthony to be at his best this season to have a chance at the playoffs. And as Jackson seems to realize, thankfully, the surest means of him reaching that potential likely comes as New York’s de facto power forward.