Analyzing Melo vs. LeBron

Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks are in front of LeBron James and the Heat in the standings. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

He's an assistant coach on one of the top staffs in the league, not a rabid fan deluded by love for his team. So his words should be taken seriously. And after studying both the Heat and the Knicks, he told me this week he'd take the Knicks in a seven-game series.

When I mentioned this to a longtime Eastern Conference scout, the scout didn't fall out of his chair. While he wouldn't go as far as the coach, he did say the Knicks are "absolutely a legitimate threat" to dethrone the Heat.

The Knicks, who destroyed the Heat on Thursday night in Miami, have lots of things going for them but none bigger than Carmelo Anthony. Despite the fact Anthony did not play last night because of stitches in his middle finger on his left hand, he is on my short list of early season MVP candidates, plays LeBron James better than any other swingman in the league.

No one outplays James, whose versatility enables him to impact the game more than any player in the league. Most guys, in fact, get dominated by him. But not Anthony. While he may not pass and defend as well as James, he comes closer than anyone to matching James' production.