The New York Knicks are now Carmelo Anthony's team, more than ever. Whether you think it's for better or worse, the Knicks have a coach in Mike Woodson who Anthony wanted (at least now, and moreso than he wanted Mike D'Antoni), let Jeremy Lin walk when it was fairly clear that Anthony wasn't the biggest fan of his, and have built a team around him that should play to his strengths.
Melo has his detractors - there are many of them - and they're certainly not too often unreasonable in their criticism of him. It's true that Anthony has only once been on a team that advanced past the first round of the playoffs, and his personal winning percentage in the playoffs is the lowest in the history of the league (a quirky stat because basketball isn't prizefighting, it's a team sport). Anthony only became a Knick because he forced a trade there from Denver, although it's debatable whether or not he actually quit on the team and on coach George Karl. His last game for Denver was a win that moved the team to 32-35 and one in which he scored 38 points and hauled down 12 rebounds. He didn't exactly give up, although any time you engineer your way away from one team to the other, you're fairly going to be criticized.
Unless your name is Deron Williams.
In this piece I was going to compare Anthony and Williams, and we'll still do that to some effect. We can crunch numbers and throw stats out there all we want, we can play the "who makes the guys around him better" game, or make countless other comparisons, concrete or intangible. The truth is that when you look at the city's best two NBA players, they're actually quite similar to one another.
If I were to say "(Blank player name) is a wildly talented offensive player, a perennial all-star, legitimate NBA star with Olympic gold medals who has once reached a conference final," either Anthony or Williams would fit that bill. Sure there are generalizations in there and of course the big difference between the two is that WIlliams is a point guard and Anthony is a small/power forward. But the NBA is all about star players, and no teams win anything without true star players. At this point in their respective careers, you can seriously question whether or not both Anthony or Williams are good enough to lead their teams to a title as the main guy.
I'm not really sure why but it seems like many people forget the episode where Williams ran future Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan out of Utah and then was traded to the Nets two weeks later. Williams isn't the only NBA player who's done something like this by any stretch, but often times it seems ignored, maybe it's because he's a point guard. It sounds silly, but honestly - he's not a selfish-by-nature player on the court, so clearly he isn't a selfish player or person off the court, right? One of the main criticisms of Anthony is that he's selfish, that he's more concerned with getting his 35 points than he is with winning games. Either way you slice it, both players have their flaws and neither has reached a point where you feel like you can lean solely on them to consistently beat good teams and ultimately, seriously, win.
Then the question becomes who you'd rather have on your team. I'm taking Anthony and there are a few reasons why. First, Anthony is one of the premier scorers in the game. If you plan on being a team that is going to make the playoffs and play close games, you want Anthony on your team down the stretch. When you need two points, Anthony will find a way to get you two points. When you need three, he can get you three. He is ultra-reliable late in games when you simply need a basket. That is something every successful NBA team needs in order to win.
Additionally, teams can win without superstar play at point guard. You need good point guard play, and while there aren't many teams built like them, the Miami Heat just won an NBA title with Mario Chalmers as their point guard. A team with Deron Williams as their point guard is capable of winning an NBA title - that's a gross understatement - but that team would need other good scorers and very good low-post defenders (something the Nets lack in a way that the Baconator lacks nutrition). Much like Anthony, Williams has proved thus far in this career that he also would need an ideal situation in order to win a title.
A comparison between Anthony and Williams is admittedly a splitting hairs situation. Nobody would be wrong in choosing either Anthony or Williams over the other. The more meaningful argument, then, is probably which player fits better on their current team, and which team is closer to winning than the other.
Well that's what this season is for.