Let’s get one thing straight right away: this article is not about bashing Carmelo Anthony. In fact, he deserves a ton of respect. After a rough season in 2011-12, in which he struggled at the beginning, and appeared to push Mike D’Antoni out of town, Melo has seriously gotten his act together. His shooting is better than ever, and he’s emerged as a real leader as the Knicks look to make a serious playoff run. So, Melo deserves a lot of credit for turning things around.
I’m just not sure he should be the MVP.
On the surface, he seems like a legitimate candidate. After all, he’s the best player on one of the best teams, and he’s playing the best basketball of his career, so it’s a no-brainer, right? Well, not exactly. He’s playing great ball to be sure, but some of his competition has simply been a bit better.
For instance, look at Kevin Durant. Yes, Anthony is scoring slightly more than Durant is, but Durant is a much better passer, averaging 4.2 assists per game, compared to only 1.9 for Anthony. Surely, Durant deserves some credit for getting his teammates more involved in the game. As a recent article on Deadspin pointed out, Anthony hasn’t really become a different player, he’s simply gotten better at being the shoot-first player he’s always been. That’s not a bad thing, but if we’re going to say a guy is the most valuable player in the league, shouldn’t it matter that he really doesn’t do much when it comes to distributing the ball?
While we’re at it, let’s talk about LeBron James. I understand why people are reluctant to talk James up as an MVP candidate. It’s gotten a bit boring at this point. We all know how good he is, and we know that on raw talent alone, he’s the best player in the NBA. It’s no fun to talk about, but that’s the way it is. James is having a better season than Anthony or Durant, but it won’t be discussed because unlike them, he hasn’t added anything new to his game. Melo became a better shooter, and Durant became a better passer. Meanwhile, LeBron is just giving us the same great performance he’s been giving us since he entered the league, and it doesn’t blow our minds like it used to.
The problem is, while LeBron’s performance might not be any different, it’s still better than anything anyone else in the league – including Anthony or Durant – is doing. He does everything. He scores at will, he’s a beast when it comes to rebounds, and he’s a better passer than most point guards in the league. Oh, and he can guard any position. That’s kind of important.
Of course, the counter-argument to this is that Anthony’s season is still more impressive the James’ because of the huge leap the Knicks took. To a degree, I can understand that. The Knicks were a mess less season, as they dealt with more tumult and turmoil than any team in the league. This year, it’s pretty much been smooth sailing all the way, with the only real question being how to integrate Iman Shumpert and Amar’e Stoudemire back into lineup. The Knicks were considered far too dysfunctional to be contenders, and going into the season, no one took them seriously. Now, they’re as cohesive as anyone else in the league, and no one is doubting that they could do some damage in the playoffs. To be sure, Melo is a huge part of that.
I still hesitate to put him ahead of James or Durant. Let’s not forget, the Heat and Thunder both still have better records than the Knicks. While they may be winning, they still aren’t the unstoppable juggernaut that Miami and OKC often appear to be. Additionally, Anthony’s case suffers due to his struggles with injuries. He missed his fifth game of the year last night, while James and Durant have both played every game for their teams this year. Admittedly, five games doesn’t immediately sound like a lot, but suppose he kept missing games at this rate. He would end up missing roughly 14 games. If that happened, while James and Durant both played in a full 82, I’d have a very hard time giving him the hardware over his more durable competition.
So, Carmelo Anthony is having an excellent season, and he’s solidified himself as one of the best players in the league. He just isn’t THE best. And that’s fine. A player doesn’t have to be the single greatest player in the game to carry his team to new heights. Still, the MVP talk for Melo seems to be going a bit too far. He’s helping his team immensely, but Lebron James and Kevin Durant are both doing a little more right now. Obviously, we’re still early in the season, so there’s time for Anthony to improve his game even more, and prove me wrong. For the time being, however, I’d put him at 3rd on my ballot, and congratulate him for all he’s given the Knicks this year.
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