Knicks fans are dreaming of Carmelo Anthony like children at Christmas — a top forward to put along side Amar’e Stoudemire and form two-thirds of the dynasty needed to beat the Heat and bring Willis Reed-like glory back to Madison Square Garden.
Except, can Anthony really do that?
No doubt he can put points up on the board, but is he elite as everyone thinks? Can he be that guy in New York? There are plenty of people who say no. He puts plenty of points on the board but he’s not efficient doing it (his shooting percentage hangs about the league average, whether you use traditional or advanced version of the stat). He scores a lot, but he takes a lot of shots to do it. More in the Iverson sense than the Kevin Durant sense.
But why is that? Why is ‘Melo not on the same level with Kobe and LeBron, the one Kevin Durant is leapfrogging Anthony to get to?
Because he takes too many contested shots.
That is the conclusion of Jeremy at Roundball Mining Company, who went deep into the tape (via Synergy Sports), charting shots for Carmelo, LeBron, Durant, Dwyane Wade, Kobe and even Kevin Martin. (You really need to go read the entire post, it is fantastic.)
What he found is that only 39 percent of ‘Melo’s shots are open (defender at least an arms length away), lowest of all the big names looked at. Kobe was at 42.3 percent (next lowest) while LeBron saw 53.9 percent of his shots with no hand in his face. Martin was at 69 percent.
As you might expect, players shot well on those open looks, with Anthony hitting 62.3 percent of his.
But that also means that 61 percent of Anthony’s shots were contested, and on those he shot just 31.5 percent. For comparison, Kobe hit 38 percent of his.
The lesson here is that Anthony does not fear shooting under duress, even though he’s not efficient at it. We can argue if that is Anthony or the system (although do you think George Karl tells him to do that or to move the ball?), but the fact remains one thing that holds him back from the next level is he shoots too many contested jumpers. He shoots with a hand in his face more than his contemporaries, and he doesn’t hit as many of them (well, Martin and Wade shot worse when contested, but still).
In a Mike D’Antoni system would that be different? The Nuggets certainly run, and Chauncey Billiups is better at getting the ball to the open men than Raymond Felton. Yet Anthony is still shooting the contested shots.
Until that changes — and his defense improves — he will be good but not one of the games two or three best. And that may not be good enough in New York.