After a solid start to the new year, the New York Knicks are on a three-game slide, coming off back-to-back losses. Thursday night, the Knicks were outclassed by the Indiana Pacers, getting blown out by a superior team once thought to be the Knicks’ peers as semi-contenders. Last night, the Knicks kicked off a historical eight-game home stand by losing by double-digits to the also-superior Los Angeles Clippers.
Besides for lackadaisical defense and an overall failure to execute as well as their opponents, the Knicks’ offense was so easily stopped because there aren’t enough threats to make an opposing defense honest. Carmelo Anthony has shouldered an incredible amount of weight carrying the Knicks’ offense this season, but his lack of support on the roster is even making his incredible scoring talent go to waste.
Thursday against the Pacers, Anthony got off to a scintillating start, going for 18 of the Knicks’ 31 first-quarter points. But with the lack of scoring threats elsewhere, the Pacers began to hound Anthony all over the floor, making his looks increasingly difficult. The rest of the game, Anthony scored just 10 points while no other Knick contributed more than 13 points. In Friday’s loss to the Clippers, Anthony managed a 26-20 game, but shot just 4-23 from the field. While J.R. Smith scored 24 points of his own, it was for naught; the Knicks weren’t competitive.
As Chris Herring mentioned in his recent post about Anthony and the Knicks’ scoring woes, ten separate times this season Anthony has scored 25 points or more while none of his teammates even reached 15 points. According to Herring and Stats LLC., no other player in the NBA has had to carry that type of scoring load in the last three seasons.
Not all of that is the Knicks’ fault for building a flawed design. Anthony was brought in to team up with Amar’e Stoudemire, who to that point was averaging 26 points on 50% shooting with 9 rebounds per game. Stoudemire since then has undergone three knee surgeries, back procedures, and treatments for ankle injuries. Overall, since the Anthony acquisition, Stoudemire has averaged just 18.5 points per game over three and a half seasons, but injuries have severely limited his playing time and athletic skill, so even that scoring average is a bit deceiving.
J.R. Smith was Anthony’s right-hand man last season, scoring 18 points per game on 42% shooting. This season, of course, even ignoring the off-court issues, Smith is averaging just 12 points per game on 36% shooting. Andrea Bargnani, who the Knicks acquired in exchange for three draft picks and a valued floor-spacer in Steve Novak, has been wildly inconsistent. In November, Bargnani was a worthy scoring companion to Anthony, averaging 16 points per game on 47% shooting, 37% from downtown. Since November, however, Bargnani is averaging just 12 points per game on 43% shooting and just 20% from three-point range.
As mentioned, the Knicks have started a pivotal eight-game home stand. By the time it ends, it will be February 1, less than three weeks from the NBA trade deadline. If the Knicks were to go 4-4 during that stretch, they’d be just 19-29 and likely still out of a playoff spot. At this point, the Knicks would have to consider making a trade, either giving up large assets to land a worthwhile star partner to keep Anthony, or to clear cap space in hopes of re-signing Anthony this summer and adding another star free agent.
As seen last season, when surrounded by the right pieces, Anthony’s scoring can lead a successful team. If the Knicks plan their rebuild the right way, it’d be worthwhile keeping Anthony around, but right now he simply doesn’t have the help he needs to make this Knicks team anything special.