On a very basic level, the question seems almost absurd.
Does the Carmelo Anthony trade make the Knicks offense better? The gut first reaction is “Of course it does. ‘Melo is a scorer going to a system where they just ask guys to get out and score. Match made in heaven.”
Then you look at the devilish details, and you look at Chauncey Billups… and maybe this isn’t going to be so smooth.
Sebastian Pruiti at the fantastic NBA Playbook notes that what Anthony likes to do and does well — isolation plays and post ups — are things the Knicks don’t usually highlight.
With the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony was ISO’d 36.9% of the time, while posting up 15.7% of the time. Anthony has success in both of these spots, posting a PPP of .853 when ISO’d (110th in the NBA), and a PPP of .941 when posting up (54th in the NBA).
While ISO plays are at least part of the Knicks’ offensive game plan, running ISOs 13.4% of the time, they simply don’t post their players up, only running Post-Up plays 5% of the time. So right off the bat, the Knicks’ offensive system takes away something that Carmelo Anthony does very well.
Go read the post, because with video evidence Pruiti shows how the Knicks in general — and Stoudemire specifically — shoot themselves in the foot with spacing on isolation and post up sets. Stoudemire in particular tends to shade to the ball, bringing an unwanted defender into the area.
But you just kind of get the feeling Stoudemire and Anthony are going to find a way to coexist. Will Mike D’Antoni adjust his system to fit Anthony (he would warrant it)? There may be rough patches this year, but they will get it figured out, it feels like.
The bigger issue may be at point guard.
I’ll grant you that Chauncey Billups is a better player than Raymond Felton. At this point in their respective careers (Billups is 34) it’s closer than people want to admit, but for the sake of argument we’ll grant that Billups is the better overall player.
But he is not the better point guard for the Knicks offense, where the point guard runs a lot of pick-and-roll, as Pruiti points out.
When coming off of ballscreens, Felton is looking for his teammates than he is his own offense, passing it to a teammate 55.8% of the time (looking for his own offense 44.2% of the time). Out of those passes, he hits the roll man 43.1% of the time while hitting a teammate spotting up 52.7% of the time….
While Felton is more pass oriented coming off of screens, Billups is more interested in looking for his offense. According to Synergy, Billups looks for his offense 51.3% of the time when coming off of ballscreens, passing it just 48.7% of the time. Out of those passes, he hits the roll man 38% of the time and a player spotting up 48% of the time. The rest of the time (14% to be exact) Billups is hitting cutters. To me, this means that Billups has a tendency to hold the basketball when coming off of screens (he is penetrating looking for his own offense and a teammate cuts off of that). A point guard who dominates the basketball when playing the pick and roll game doesn’t work unless you are Steve Nash (Billups isn’t pass first like Nash).
I can hear the New York counter argument now, “Billups is just a placeholder until we get Deron Williams or Chris Paul in a couple years. We can live with him for now.”
We’ll ignore the possibilities of the Knicks getting D-Will or CP3 in two years because there is no way of knowing what the rules will be under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Does this mean New Yorkers will quietly sit by and not complain about D’Antoni and his offense because he has been given ill-fitting pieces? You going to cut Melo and Amar’e slack because they are not getting the ball when and where they like it.
Of course you’re not. You’re New Yorkers.
The offensive transition in New York well may not be as smoother and effortless as some expect. Still, with all that firepower they will still put up points. Defense? That’s another story entirely.