Burning Q's: Can Melo match MJ, Kobe?

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
8:00
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Carmelo AnthonyDebby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Carmelo Anthony is at the peak of his powers. Can the triangle bring even more out of him?
With training camp less than one month away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Who is the Knicks' most important offensive player?

Just so you know from the top, we know this is a silly question when it comes to the Knicks. Obviously, Carmelo Anthony is the Knicks' most important offensive player.

But we here at ESPNNewYork.com have come up with a few "Burning Questions" heading into training camp. And we've done so in concert with our friends at the Nets blog. So the question agreed upon today concerned each team's most important offensive player.

Again, it's obvious that New York's most important offensive weapon is Anthony.

So, instead of delving into why that is, we'd rather talk about the potential impact of the triangle offense on Anthony's game.

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How will the triangle impact Carmelo Anthony's game?

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Discuss (Total votes: 3,434)

First things first: By all accounts, it could take a while for Anthony and the Knicks to learn the triangle. There are multiple actions in the offense that are based on how a defense reacts to certain offensive sets. Given all of the variables at play, it's probably safe to say that what you see in the first few months from Anthony will be different from what you see from him late in the season.

But how much different will Anthony's game be in his first triangle season? Can he improve statistically?

Many long-time Anthony observers say he has had some of his best seasons as a pro over the past two years. In 2012-13, Carmelo led the league in scoring. Last season he finished second, behind Kevin Durant. He also established a career high in rebounds per game last year (8.1) and 3-point shooting percentage (40.2 percent). His player efficiency rating was a career-high 24.8 in 2012-13. We mention all of this to say that Anthony seems to be at his peak entering this season. Can the triangle offense help him reach higher ground?

Obviously, we'll have to wait and see to find out the answer to that question.

But to provide some historical context, we took at look at how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant performed in their first seasons in the triangle.

Of course, Anthony, Bryant and Jordan all faced vastly different circumstances in their first year in the offense.

For one, Jordan was 26 years old and in his sixth season in the league when he first played in Phil Jackson's signature offense back in 1989-90.

Bryant was 21 and in his fourth NBA season.

Anthony, on the other hand, is 30 and will be entering his 12th.

Also, while Jordan and Anthony were undoubtedly the focal points of their team's offense in their first seasons in the triangle, Bryant was sharing the floor with Shaquille O'Neal.

With all of that in mind, it's still worthwhile to look at what Bryant and Jordan did in their first seasons in the triangle when trying to guess at how it may impact Anthony.

The big takeaways from Jordan's first season were that his scoring increased by 1.9 points per 36 minutes and his shooting percentage from beyond the arc increased by 10 percent. He also took two more shots per 36 minutes in his first season in the triangle than he did the year before.

Could we see something similar with Anthony? It wouldn't be a surprise if Melo's scoring spiked in the triangle. But 3-point shooting percentage is another story. Melo shot a career-high 40 percent from beyond the arc last season. So it's hard to see him making a big improvement in that area this year given it was a career-best mark.

What about Kobe's first year in the triangle?

His scoring per 36 minutes also increased by two points and he shot two more field goals per 36 minutes. Kobe also increased his 3-point shooting percentage by five percent; his assists per 36 minutes increased by one.

Could Melo accrue more assists in his first triangle season, as Kobe did?

(Jordan's assists decreased in his first triangle season but that was due in part to his role as Bulls point guard in the previous season.)

The guess here is that Melo's assist opportunities (as explained here) will remain the same and that his teammates will knock down a larger percentage of those shots created by Anthony. So his assists per 36 minutes should spike.

But that's only a guess. We won't know definitively about the triangle's impact on Anthony until they roll the balls out in late October. But one thing is certain: The success of this Knicks team hinges -- at least in part -- on how the triangle effects Carmelo's game.

Question: How do you think the triangle will impact Melo's game? Will it be similar to the way the offense impacted Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2