“I heard a statement ‘bout a week ago!” (Bobby Schmurda voice). There I was sitting at home enjoying what is considered a rare Knicks win these days when I heard it. “Well LeBron makes his teammates better and Carmelo doesn’t right? I mean look at what he did with J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.” My blood began boiling and I could immediately feel my blood pressure skyrocketing. This came from an NBATV anchor (not named), which made it even worse. It’s time to set these fools straight. Let’s talk facts.
Building an NBA roster is like putting together a puzzle. There may be both similar and dissimilar pieces, but in the right spatial organization, it comes together for the big picture. J.R. and Iman fit nicely in what the Knicks intended to do. However, without the correct additional pieces, the puzzle could never be quite finished.
Players are who they are, unless you develop them to an unforeseen level of production (re: Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard). The Knicks expected J.R. and Iman to average close to 20 PPG to assist Melo in shouldering the scoring load. Every effort they put on the court wasn’t enough. Excuse me for not realizing that Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler were as offensively talented as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love; my sincerest apologies.
Kyrie Irving can shoot the three (39.5% this season), split the double team, run the pick and roll, attack the rim and finish amongst the trees. Kevin Love is also a three point specialist that can spread the floor, grab rebounds (averaging 11 RPG this season) and go in the post for an easy basket. In the Knicks best season with J.R. and Iman (’12-’13), the only All-Star in addition to Melo was Tyson Chandler. He averaged 10.4 PPG and 10.7 RPG in what could arguably be the best season of his career. Compare that to this season for Love which is considered a “down year” with him averaging 19.9 PPG and 11 RPG. Not only do the Cavaliers have more All-Stars than any of those Knicks rosters, but the stats for those stars are superior.
It is so easy to fail when asked to produce numbers above your capabilities. Perception becomes reality and the disappointment sets it sooner rather than later. Fans anticipated All-Star play from both individuals while in New York and felt they underperformed regardless of those numbers. Those claiming LeBron has made them better on the Cavs are simply conforming to the most popular and consistent hot take. The numbers speak for themselves. In comparable minutes played, both J.R. and Iman performed better in all major offensive statistical categories during their Knicks tenure.
While on the Cavs roster, the two individuals have been tasked with nearly identical roles; space the floor with shooting, and defend the other team’s best player. In modern day terms, you’d call it “3 and D”. OF COURSE it’ll seem like you’re performing better on the best team in the Eastern Conference. There’s rarely a need to have the offense run through them, nor is it imperative that they get the ball in an isolation situation. Heck, I think I’d be able to flourish is that kind of offense.
Next time someone says “LeBron makes his teammates better and Melo doesn’t”, let’s take a brief look at the circumstances. It’s easy to catch SportsCenter or NBATV Gametime and make up your mind from there. It’s much harder to critically think and dissect the teams.