This season, Carmelo Anthony has moved to power forward for the first time in his career, and he's flourished. Out of the top 20 players with the most post-up plays, he's the only natural small forward in the group, and he's averaging nearly one point per play in that formation.
Recently, in wins against the Heat and Hawks, Anthony has taken his game more outside, and he hasn't missed a beat. He scored a total of 90 points in the two games.
Most of the credit, whether Melo is scoring inside or out, goes to his quick release on jump shots. In both games, he scored just four buckets in the paint. Twelve of his makes were off catch-and-shoots, and his other jumpers came off crafty and efficient dribble moves, including 11 off one or two dribbles, three off turnarounds and four off step-backs.
"I give him credit for being fairly accurate with his release," a veteran NBA scout said. "It's not easy to shoot that well, that quick. Good shooting takes concentration, and the way he releases it looks rushed, but it's not."
Working with his longtime trainer, Idan Ravin, Anthony has focused each summer on speeding up his release to stay a step ahead of the opposition.
"Melo's genius includes his ability to adapt," Ravin said. "Each night, Melo faces an opponent's best defender, so he has refined his shot and quickened his release to account for those moments when a long, athletic and skilled defender challenges him."
Most of Melo's moves into his trademark jump shot have come from repetition. For example, in the last couple of years, the Knicks star has showed off a unique step-back dribble right into a shot out of a triple-threat stance.
"With my trainer, we go in the gym and he just lets me shoot around for about five, 10 minutes," he said. "Then I'll just be working on something, and that's how we figured it out. Like two or three years ago, I was actually toying around with that move and he added that into the workout rotation."
Anthony has also looked to improve his quick release from 3-point range ever since playing in Mike D'Antoni's perimeter-oriented offense, which Mike Woodson has adopted.
Behind Anthony's effective quick release are also his height (6-8) and frame (235 pounds), allowing him to bump off defenders and create space. Combined with his footwork and deceptive, more upright dribbling, he's able to keep defenders at bay because he never looks like he's in position to shoot or drive. When he's about to release, he tends to make a crossover move to his left hand, utilizing the off hand as a friendly guide.
"He really has a strong base, which helps with his bounce off the floor and extension," the scout said. "The guy is gifted. There's not many ballplayers like he and LeBron [James]."
With Anthony's versatile shooting ability at the core of the Knicks' offense, there's good reason Woodson has banked on a 3-point shooting system. The attention Melo draws presents ample opportunity for his teammates to get open. In a sense, trying to guard Melo is a game within a game.
"There's really no defense for a guy like him," the scout said.
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