<
>

Carmelo Anthony says he'll take Phil Jackson's words and work to improve

SYRACUSE -- The other day, Phil Jackson said he thought Carmelo Anthony has "just touched the surface of his greatness."

It was a bold statement, one that Jackson backed up by signing the 30-year-old Anthony to a five-year, $124 million contract over the summer. It was also a fancy way for the Knicks president to say he thinks Anthony can improve in certain areas.

But Jackson didn't really get into specifics when he made the comment on Sunday night.

He also hasn't shared his thoughts with Anthony –- yet.

"I haven't had a conversation with Phil about that, but if he's saying that obviously he sees something, he knows something," Anthony said after the Knicks' win in Syracuse, New York, over the Philadelphia 76ers. "… Obviously, he sees something within me that he believes in, and I'll take that and continue moving forward and working on that."

What do you think Phil was talking about when he said Carmelo was just "touching the surface" of his talent? What would Phil like to see Carmelo improve? Below, we take a guess at what Phil might have meant:

Defensive intensity: Anthony has been labeled by some analysts as a terrible defender. That seems a bit harsh and simplistic to us, but it's more than fair to say the 30-year-old can improve in this area of the game.

Individual defense can be tough to quantify, but Melo rated poorly in one defensive metric last season.

Anthony ranked in the bottom third of the league in real defensive plus minus, a stat that tracks a player's on-court impact on team defensive performance.

Anthony's defensive plus-minus was a minus-1.02, which was 289th out of the 437 players who qualified for the stat. According to the metric, Melo ranked 53rd out of the 72 players who qualified for his position.

So when Jackson said Melo was just "touching the surface" of his greatness, maybe he was really saying he'd like him to work on his individual defense?

Ball movement: We think Carmelo's reputation as a ball-stopper is a bit overblown, but there's no denying he has a habit of possessing the ball for long stretches.

As we noted over the summer, Anthony had the ball in his hands for an average of 3.6 minutes per game last season, the second-highest mark among forwards who averaged at least 30 minutes per game, behind LeBron James, per SportVU.

That translated to a lot of isolation play.

Carmelo led the league in isolation scoring last season, averaging 6.6 isolation PPG, according to Synergy Sports. Those isolation sets had an impact on the Knicks' ball movement. New York ended the season ranked 24th in touches per possession and 25th in points created by assists per game -- two signs of an ineffective offense.

This isn't going to work in the triangle, an offense that stresses constant ball and player movement.

Both Jackson and coach Derek Fisher have mentioned that the ball can't stop in Anthony's hands in the Knicks' new offense.

So we're guessing that when Phil talks about Carmelo "just touching the surface" of his talent, he's really saying Melo could be a more effective player if he moved the ball with greater frequency.

Question: Phil Jackson says Carmelo Anthony is "just touching the surface of his talent." How do you think Anthony, at 30, can improve his game? Where do you think Phil would like to see him improve most?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.