Here’s How 2015 Can Be Carmelo Anthony’s Best Year Yet

Let’s face it: The 2014-15 New York Knicks aren’t going to win a championship. It wasn’t long ago that the organization was offering visions of grandeur to its loyal fanbase. Phil Jackson came to town with his 11 rings, Zen teachings, triangle philosophy, and a new, fresh-faced head coach in Derek Fisher. Owner Jim Dolan promised to back off and be less meddlesome in roster management. Maligned point guard Raymond Felton was shipped out. And, most importantly, Carmelo Anthony spurned free agent suitors and re-upped with the Knicks for the long haul. Things on Broadway were promising and the Knicks 15-year promise of building a championship contender finally seemed reasonable.

Then the season started. The triangle is a work in a process and has, at times, been completely abandoned. The Sam Dalembert, Shane Larkin, and Jose Calderon coup the Knicks received by trading former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks hasn’t lived up to expectations. Carmelo Anthony trade rumors have already started to pop up and the locker room, fanbase, and front office are all a little disgruntled. The whole combination has led to a difficult 5-21 start.

This isn’t what Carmelo Anthony signed up for. This isn’t what anyone in the Knicks organization signed up for. But as they say, it’s always darkest before dawn. A fresh start is exactly what ‘Melo needs and 2015 may just be the best year of his professional career.

First things first, the current incarnation of the New York Knicks will look nothing like the team that will take the court next season. Outside of ‘Melo, the only players returning on contract will be Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway, and Cleanthony Early. And based on recent reports, every single one of the players on the current roster (except for ‘Melo) could be traded. That leaves the Knicks with a ton of cap room plus an almost guaranteed lottery pick based on the way the season has gone thus far. Looking ahead, that gives the Knicks plenty of flexibility to go after free agent options like Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Goran Dragic, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Pair ‘Melo, a big-time free agent, and a potential college star acquired through the draft like Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky’s Karl Towns, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson or point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who is currently playing in China, and you have a completely refurbished core. The Knicks’ best option at this juncture is to pull a Philadelphia 76ers and tank as hard as they possibly can.

From an individual standpoint, ‘Melo is still one of the best players in the world. For the season, he is averaging 23.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. It may seem like it was ages ago based on how the last year and change has played out, but ‘Melo is not far removed from winning the scoring title and finishing third in MVP voting. Remember, the Knicks also won 54 games that year by surrounding ‘Melo with shooters, a defensive-minded center, athleticism off the bench (J.R. Smith won Sixth Man of the Year in 2012-13), and veterans in the locker room. The formula for success is there and fans have to believe that Phil Jackson will get it right in 2015 by building a similar team. As ‘Melo enters his 30s, the Knicks have no choice but to act fast to turn into a contender. Still, the Knicks are in a good place. They have a superstar player locked up, tons of cap space opening up, a potential top-10 pick coming their way, and a man with 11 rings in the front office. From that viewpoint, the Knicks are in as good a position as they have been in years.

When he decided to re-sign with the Knicks, ‘Melo emphasized that a big part of the reason he returned to New York was to build his brand and legacy off the basketball court. In 2015, ‘Melo has an opportunity to capitalize on the business moves he has made and have an incredibly lucrative year. As a member of the Jordan Brand family, Anthony recently revealed his M11, the latest in his “Melo” sneaker line. Since joining the Knicks, ‘Melo’s sneaker releases have become more and more high-profile and ‘Melo has arguably transformed into Jordan’s biggest endorser (outside of Michael Jordan, of course).

The success and reputation has helped ‘Melo venture into big-time business deals. Along with ventures into film (he produced the 2008 documentary, Tyson), ‘Melo is involved with SMS Audio; invested, along with Derek Jeter, in Frigo underwear; is a co-founder of Haute Time, a publication dedicated to luxury watches; and has invested in numerous tech companies. He has also tried his chops at acting, most recently appearing in Sons Of Anarchy. The rest of the 2014-15 season is going to be tough for ‘Melo, but with the amount of suffering he has to endure due to the losing, he can find some solace in the amount of bread he will make outside of basketball. As the old saying goes, money can’t buy happiness but it’s easier to cry in a Mercedes than on a bicycle.

This was a rough year for Carmelo Anthony. But at this point there’s only one way to go and that’s up. If all goes accordingly, 2015 will bring ‘Melo massive amounts of success both on and off the hardwood.

Follow Peter on Twitter at @Peter_M_Walsh