NY Knicks: Who was the better small forward? Bernard King or Carmelo Anthony

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NY Knicks
Carmelo Anthony, NY Knicks. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

NY Knicks: These two made their bones on the offensive side of the floor

You can still see the vestiges of Carmelo Anthony’s offensive game as he puts up 12-point nights in Portland, only in New York he was stronger, faster, and the focal point of perhaps the last great triangle offense in the modern NBA.

Part of why Melo had such a rough adjustment to the modern style of motion and threes is because his greatest strengths scoring came in more antique parts of the court.  Never an outstanding playmaker, Carmelo Anthony was most effective facing up from the high post and in the mid-range.  Yes, he could get hot from three, but it wasn’t always reliable.

Carmelo’s face game was second to none during his time in New York. His low center of gravity allowed him to body small wings and muscle by them, and his craftiness and the deceptively quick first step would torch slower forwards.

His mid-range game forced guys to play him honest from the high post and he could hit that mid-range jumper off of hesitations and falling away off either shoulder.  He had such a quick and natural release on his jump shot that the second his defender backed off on that signature jab-step he was already pulling up and away before his guy could contest.

Carmelo was deadly from that area of the floor, the problem was the stagnation that came with that scoring style.  Never known for his passing and not one to fly up and down the court either, Carmelo Anthony’s high-post game would translate to a slower pace and lack of ball movement that made his offensive talents singular rather than benefiting the whole team.

On top of that, that mid-range/high-post/iso style in which he excelled can be taken out with a smart team defense or a double.  He can hit those tough shots, but they’re not the most efficient.

So what was Carmelo Anthony’s offensive game?  The last great vestige of an antique style. There’s a reason he’s a role player now, he couldn’t translate his talents to the modern game, but at his apex he lead the league in points. Not too shabby.

NY Knicks: At his best, Bernard King was unstoppable…

Similarly, Bernard King’s most valuable offensive weapon was his mid-range game. A two-motion jump shot that focused more on shooting over his defender than getting the ball off quickly, King’s peers have one word for his scoring repertoire: unstoppable.

Magic Johnson remembers a Friday night match when the Lakers played the Knicks in 1984.

"“We knew he was going to that spot, the 18,000 fans knew he was going to that spot, nobody could do anything with this man.”"

King’s offensive game was all about hitting shots over top of his defender. His high-post game was more back to the basket than Melo’s was, but he still had the jumper off of either shoulder, and the quickness to blow by his defenders.

He’d turn and shoot, or else feel his man riding his hip, show the ball one way, and then spin the other way for the uncontested leaner.

He didn’t have the longest prime, but at his best, he was simply unguardable. Only twelve players have ever surpassed his PPG average in 1984-85 (32.9 a game).

Celtics’ Hall of Famer Kevin McHale remembers:

"“…and I said to Hubie, damn, can’t you run a play that isn’t for Bernard?  Because he was just killing us over and over.”"

King was more of a natural athlete than Melo.  His scoring on the fast break was put on full display during his college years and then again with the Knicks.  His signature move on the break was a two-handed breakaway dunk.  He would take two long-legged strides toward the basket and then, with both arms extended like a trapeze artist, King would lean forward and slam the ball home.

Both men were score-first guys, but there are two key differences between them:

Carmelo Anthony was the best player on his team, but his offensive repertoire often held his teammates hostage.  He couldn’t make them better, and often made them worse, despite his overwhelming output of points.

King on the other hand was able to work within the margins of the offense better. He was still far and away the primary scoring option for his squad, and actually led the league in usage rate in 1984, but it was only because he had such a weak team backing him up.  If he was playing with an all-star big like Amar’e Stoudemire or a 6MOTY like J.R. Smith, you can bet he would have gotten them involved more than Melo did.

Bernard King’s ball hogging was out of necessity, Melo’s was more of a personal decision.

Winner:  Bernard King