Two days after the Knicks' season-ending loss to the Pacers, Carmelo Anthony sat down with Mike Woodson and Glen Grunwald to talk.
At some point, the conversation turned to Anthony's game and how he can improve.
"Melo had a tremendous year, MVP-caliber sort of year," Grunwald said. "[But] everyone can improve. From the front office to the coaching to the player -- every single player. We had some good conversations with Melo. He's going to be dedicated this offseason to working on his game."
Generally speaking, a player with 10 years in the NBA has firmly established his strengths and weaknesses. So Anthony isn't going to do any significant remodeling to his game this summer.
Given that context, then, what exactly do the Knicks expect Anthony to work on?
Grunwald said he didn't want to get into the "specifics” of the Knicks' discussions with Anthony. So we reached out to an NBA scout to find out areas in which he thinks Anthony can improve.
The scout, like many others, holds Anthony's offensive prowess in high regard.
"Melo is what he is," he said. "People get down on him so easily, but he's one of the best scorers in the game."
The scout's opinion is by no means a takedown of Anthony, who is coming off a season in which he finished third in MVP voting. Rather, it's an analysis to point out potential areas of improvement.
DEFENSE: The scout says Anthony has the ability to do anything that's asked of him on the defensive end. But there are times when Anthony's effort -- or lack thereof -- gets in the way of his execution.
"At times he just gives up on plays a little bit, as opposed to being locked in all the time," the scout said. "It's not that he can't do it. He can be a really good defensive player. He can defensive rebound, he can keep guys in front, he can pressure the ball. So when you see him [give up], you become a little disappointed because you know he can do that. He can do anything on the basketball floor. He sort of cheats the game a little bit in that regard."
The scout says there are times when teams watch the Knicks and see that Anthony hasn't given full effort over the course of a defensive possession.
"You say, 'That’s Melo, that's his rotation, thats his blockout.' ... That's just being locked in, that’s just being totally bought in to what you're doing."
OFFENSE: Anthony is 29 years old. Next season will be his 11th in the league. At this point in his career, he is who he is on the offensive end. And that's not a bad thing.
"He's probably the best scorer in the game," the scout says. "So I don't know how much you're changing him at this point in his career."
Still, the scout says Anthony should think about improving as a facilitator next season. He made great strides as a passer in 2012-13, the scout notes, though they were not reflected in his statistics. Anthony's assist rate -- the percentage of field goals Anthony assisted on -- was down 7 percent last season compared to 2011-12.
But Anthony frequently made the pass that led to the pass that led to an open shot for the Knicks. And that's what people who get paid to analyze the game -- like our scout -- noticed most.
"If you were to count hockey assists, he would have a lot more assists. He doesn't get enough credit for that. He became a much better passer and he was much more unselfish," he says.
We mentioned the notion that Anthony could improve his passing when he drives to the rim, and also out of post-up situations. The scout agreed.
"If you had coaches show him every clip of when he can look out on a drive, there would be a lot of clips of that. He could get better at driving middle and kicking out to the wings when it’s open," he said.
This is an area (one of many) in which LeBron James excels.
New York Knicks
As colleague Tom Haberstroh noted, James had more assists in Game 1 (10) of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana than Anthony did in the Knicks' six-game second-round series against the Pacers (eight).
Indiana's Roy Hibbert, who did a solid job defending Anthony and the Knicks at the rim, said the ability to deliver a pass on the interior off of a drive is one thing that separates James from Anthony.
"Last series [against the Knicks], you didn't have to worry about guys making plays like that," Hibbert said. "Carmelo is just coming straight at you, it's easy to deal with."
So if Anthony can improve as a facilitator on drives and in the post, it will benefit the Knicks. But, the scout notes, making that kind of play is not as easy as it looks from your living room couch.
"That's a tough play," the scout says. "You're driving, the defense is converging and you're looking out. That’s a tough play. You're also asking [Anthony] to give up some of that part of his game. Can he do it? Absolutely. There's nothing Melo can't do.
"But Melo is what he is. He's one of the most prolific scorers in the game. If he changes his game to become more of a facilitator, I don't think you get as much out of him."
QUESTION: What do you think? What areas of his game can Anthony work on this summer?
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