Apr 23, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Film director Spike Lee (left) cheers to New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during game two in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 87-71. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Player Profile: Carmelo Anthony

Over the next few weeks, Buckets Over Broadway will be previewing the 2013-14 players for the New York Knicks. We’ll examine the good, the bad, and what to expect from them this season. First up: Carmelo Anthony.

Last Season

May 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts on the court against the Indiana Pacers during the first half in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

May 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts on the court against the Indiana Pacers during the first half in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony is likely coming off the best season of his NBA career, and easily the best season of his tenure with the New York Knicks. He posted the second highest points per game of his career (28.7), won the scoring title for the first time, and shot a career-high in three-point percentage (37.9%). Likewise, he shouldered a bigger role as a leader for the Knicks, showing for, perhaps the first time, a willingness to defend, hustle, and do whatever necessary to win. Though a torn labrum and the Indiana Pacers’ vice-grip defense sent Anthony and the Knicks home early, ‘Melo enjoyed what would have been an MVP-caliber season if he didn’t also play in the same league as two men named LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

What We Know

Scoring. Shooting. That’s pretty much Carmelo Anthony’s modus operandi. Last season he did it better than ever, and the Knicks will need that type of production again. The core surrounding ‘Melo has gotten younger, deeper, and stronger, but in the end, the Knicks’ ultimate success still relies on Anthony’s ability to hit shots from all over the floor. The offense came to halt when ‘Melo couldn’t score in the playoffs, and while the Knicks can still squeeze out occasional games on his off-nights, they’re simply not good enough to contend with a stronger Eastern Conference without Anthony in top form. If he can carry over last season’s efficiency with his surefire scoring output, the Knicks will be all the better for it.

What We’ll Need

Anybody who watched the Knicks last season saw a more willing passer in Anthony. Though ‘Melo’s assist numbers were down pretty much across the board, he was unselfish in spreading the wealth, kicking the ball out of double-teams, whipping the ball cross-court when he sensed help arriving. The Knicks will need more of this in 2013-14, and while Anthony deserves applause for his passing last season, it’s far from guaranteed that we’ll see that same player again. Similarly, in doses, Anthony was an incredible rebounder in 2012-13. When the situation called for it, he attacked the glass on both ends, simply bulldozing anyone around him in his search for the ball with the intensity of a quarterback-hunting lineman. The Knicks haven’t made any immediate strides in becoming a better rebounding team this season (one of last year’s biggest weaknesses), so the Knicks need Anthony to help lead that charge. In reality, there’s no reason Anthony can’t go for eight or so boards per game.

What We Can Expect

Mar. 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Memphis Grizzlies small forward Tayshaun Prince (21) guards New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to expect anything from Anthony following such an outstanding season is tip-toeing a fine line. On one hand, ‘Melo seemed to turn some kind of corner last year in becoming a team leader, trusting his teammates, and settling into his position with the Knicks — that is, settling into being The Man in New York. More of the same from him in 2013-14 will be welcomed with open arms. Anthony will get the shots he wants, when he wants them once again this year, but after the team’s most successful season in over a decade, a precedent has been set: Anthony needs to score the ball, plus do all of the extra things in order to build on last year’s achievements.

On the other hand, anything less than continuous excellence from Anthony will cause an uproar of sorts. The media is salivating at the prospect of “Anthony will leave the Knicks in 2014″ rumors, and the slightest bit of stormy weather this season will undoubtedly get those rumors re-circulating. Furthermore, a slip back into bad habits will equally worry fans and analysts. Rarely did Anthony seem complacent last season, but too much ball-stopping, lackadaisical defense, or other dips in effort will surely be noticed. Basically, fans are expecting the Anthony they last season, the one who looked like a legitimate franchise centerpiece.

Can the efficient scoring continue on the offensive end? The stats suggest not as Anthony has never posted a field goal percentage higher than 50%, nor a full season shooting the three like he did last season. However, as mentioned, this seems to be a new Carmelo Anthony. Expecting another tremendous season is risky, but placing a high amount of hope on it doesn’t seem too outrageous.

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