Earlier in the week, Sports Illustrated’s  Zach Lowe was able to get a hold of Carmelo Anthony to discuss his NBA Top 100 player rankings. The Knicks star forward disagreed with Lowe’s ranking, stating that in his mind there were not 20 players better than him in the league. If we fast forward to today, #NBARank announced that Melo was rated as the 12th best player in the league. ESPN’s staff of writers and bloggers may have ranked Anthony higher than Lowe, but it is deserved?

New York Knicks fans may want to sit down for this one.

Carmelo carries along with him the label of superstar; thus he is paid like one given the fact that fans fork over a hefty sum to watch him display his talents on the court. It’s one thing to get fans to come to games during the regular season, but superstars also have to be able to bring it in the postseason. Keep in mind, it’s not an absolute necessity to win a championship to carry the title of superstar, but playing at an exceptionally high level during the playoffs should not come as a surprise, but rather it should be expected. And on that front, Carmelo Anthony has not held his end of the bargain.

Could he be overrated?

Once again Knicks fans, breath, tone down the expletives and try to keep your beverage in your cup.

The Knicks starting small forward played well last year for both New York and Denver, but truth be told, he did not play well enough. If we simply gloss over at his numbers throughout the regular season, most people will think that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to emulate Tony Montana’s lifestyle. His 2010-11 numbers:

  • Denver: 50 games, 25.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 45.2% FG%
  • New York: 27 games, 26.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 46.1% FG%
  • Totals: 77 games, 25.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 45.5% FG%

If we stopped there, Carmelo Anthony had a terrific campaign thanks in large part to his ability to score the ball and rebound from the small forward position.

And in truth, it’s awfully hard not to be impressed when watching the former Syracuse player. He has arguably the best first step in the league, an incredible midrange game that centers on jab steps, pump fakes, spin moves and post ups. Consequently, when games get tight and the pressure mounts with the game clock ticking down; there aren’t many players better at creating and making shots down the stretch of games.

But does that make Melo a superstar? Not quite.

Typically teams can rarely survive without their star players; it’s what makes them so indispensable. The attention they attract and the confidence they instill in their teammates make them critical players that almost have to be on the court all the time in order for their teams to be successful. And yet, in Melo’s case, the Denver Nuggets actually played better when he was off the floor last season. Have a look at the data obtained from 82games.com:

Team On court Off court Net
Denver +4.2 +5.2 -1.1
New York +1.5 +0.5 +0.9

It bears mentioning however that the Knicks were worse off with Carmelo on the bench during the 2010-11 season. With that said, you would expect to be see a far larger net plus-minus differential for a player that is supposed to be in the same category as greats like Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. Indeed, let’s have a look at the net plus-minus figures for these players form last season:

Player On court Off court Net
Kobe Bryant +7.3 +3.2 +4.2
LeBron James +9.7 -0.5 +10.2
Dirk Nowitzki +10.2 -6.1 +16.3
Dwight Howard +8.1 -2.3 +10.4
Dwyane Wade +9.8 +1.6 +8.2

Now, I can hear every barbershop customer (a lot of the basketball debates happen at the barbershop) right now screaming at the top of their lungs to make this argument: save for the Orlando Magic, the teams listed above are stacked with talent and thus the hit might not be as bad when their superstars are off the court. A worthy point to concede, thus let’s have a look at how some of these players produced when they had inferior teammates. We will look at the LeBron James’ plus-minus rating with the 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade’s with the 2009-10 Miami Heat and Kobe Bryant’s with the 2005-06 Los Angeles Lakers:

Season Player On court Off court Net
2005-06 Kobe Bryant +4.8 -7.9 +12.7
2009-10 LeBron James +10.5 -5.5 +16.0
2009-10 Dwyane Wade +6.1 -6.9 +13.0

Carmelo Anthony is not close to matching any of the aforementioned stars in terms of his impact on the court. And if we dig deeper, it’s part of the reason that his teams have only advanced past the first round of the playoffs once in his eight-year career.

During the 2009 playoffs, Melo played like a man possessed as he kept putting up huge scoring nights to lead his Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals where the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated them.

Every other playoff appearance by Melo-led teams have been uneventful and lacked any type of suspense.  For instance, in 2006, the Nuggets fell at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs in a series that probably only Clippers fans remember. Anthony struggled to score with any type of consistency (33.3 percent field goal shooting) while defended by the immortal Quinton Ross.

Last season, the New York Knicks gave the Boston Celtics a few scares in the first two games at the TD Garden, but when the games were played in New York, the Cs essentially used the Knicks jerseys to wax the Madison Square Garden court and send the Knickerbockers into the offseason. Mike D’Antoni’s team was hit by injuries to two of his three best players, but the mercurial forward still struggled late in the series.

Indeed, in four games against Boston in the 2011 playoffs, Anthony averaged 26.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game on a frigid 37.5 percent field goal shooting. Melo got his points, but needed a large amount of shots to get there; which played right into the Celtics strategy.

Anthony’s play obviously could have been better, but the truth is that perhaps it’s too much to expect from the former Nugget. His career playoff numbers are essentially on par with his performance in last season’s postseason appearance.

Notwithstanding the 2009 playoff run, Carmelo Anthony’s teams are 6-28 in postseason play. Read that sentence again.

It’s hard to crown a player a superstar when his team is able to stay afloat without him and he fails to elevate game in the playoffs. In related news, Carmelo Anthony failed to crack the top 10 of #NBARank (that’s where the big boys hang), but it’s even debatable if he should have been in the top 15.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected]. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name @ShyneIV.