How Carmelo Anthony helps the Knicks score more efficiently beyond his own points

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It’s been nearly a week since Carmelo Anthony had 62 points and zero assists against the Charlotte Bobcats. The amazement over his scoring and giggling over his passing has begun to fade.

But the deep-seated belief that Melo is a one-dimensional chucks who doesn’t make his teammates better persists, as strong as ever.

The perception just isn’t accurate, though

The New York Knicks’ offensive rating with Melo on the court is 105.4 (equivalent of ninth in the NBA) and 97.0 (equivalent of 30th in the league). Melo’s singular offensive brilliance somewhat explains the disparity – just not all of it.

As Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal explains in great depth, Melo is a very effective passer. A couple examples:

Anthony’s teammates shoot 47.6% (126-of-264) after receiving one of his passes, much better than their 43.4% (1,203-of-2,772) mark in other situations.

But Melo doesn’t even need to pass to help his teammates score more efficiently. Simply being on the floor is enough.

Nate Silver researched the phenomenon a few years ago, and he found Nuggets players scored more efficiently in seasons they spent with Melo relative to seasons they spent on other teams. Back then though, Silver’s results were limited by the data available. He couldn’t separate how well players shot within a given season when playing with Melo and when not, and comparing a player across multiple seasons brings in many other unwanted variables.

Now we can easily smooth those rough edges, and Silver’s conclusions still appear true.

Eleven of Melo’s teammates this season have taken both 30 shots with him on the floor and 30 shots with him on the bench. Of those 11, nine are shooting a higher effective field-goal percentage when Melo plays (Tyson Chandler and Pablo Prigioni being the exceptions).

Here’s how the effective field-goal percentages compare for all 11, with Melo on (orange) and off (blue), via nbawowy:

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Why does this happen?

A few reasons stand out:

1. If Melo is a black hole on offense, he not only sucks in the ball, but the defense too. Few players attract as much defensive attention as Melo, and that obviously frees space for his floormates.

2. Most opponents guard Melo with their best wing defender. That means Melo’s teammates are guarded by relatively lesser defenders.

3. Every time the shot clock is on the verge on expiring – a common occurrence for even the best-run offenses – the Knicks try to get the ball to Melo. As they should. He’s more likely to score in those situations than any other Knick. By accepting all those necessary low-efficiency shots, Melo protects the efficiency of his teammates.

Measures of efficiency that look only at the common box score when capture this nuance. They’ll just see Melo’s relative modest shooting percentages and low assist totals.

But dig deeper, and Melo’s value to New York’s offense becomes more apparent.

As if the offensive value of someone who can score 62 points in a game needs greater explanation, anyway.

Jerry West on NBA Draft: “I don’t know how you could pass Zion Williamson”

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A rumor started buzzing around NBA Twitter last week, a second-hand report that NBA legend and Clippers’ consultant Jerry West was praising Murray State guard Ja Morant, saying he would take him in front of the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

The source of that rumor: comedian Jeff Garlin, saying it on the Dan Patrick Show.

Jerry West himself went on the Dan Patrick show Thursday and shot that down saying “it Would Be Like Passing Jordan in the draft.”

Two players were picked in front Jordan in the 1984 Draft. The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, and while Jordan went on to be Jordan nobody can fault the Rockets for how this picked turned out — two titles and a Hall of Fame big man in your organization is an amazing draft.

The one everyone talks about was Portland at No. 2, when executive Stu Inman and coach Jack Ramsey decided they were set on the wing in Clyde Drexler and needed a big man, so they selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bowie might have had an excellent NBA career if injuries had not plagued him, but he was no Jordan. It’s the ultimate NBA cautionary tale — draft the best player on the board, not according to need.

Williamson is projected by teams as the best player on the board. By far. Even the Morant fans have him a clear second. Plus, Williamson comes in hugely popular and a brand unto himself — he will sell tickets and sponsorships. Not drafting him would be a stupid business decision, not to mention a basketball one.

Whoever lands second in next month’s draft lottery will do well with Morant. Whoever is third will likely get R.J. Barrett out of Duke and… let’s just say that’s where it gets interesting.

Likely top-10 pick Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech makes it official, declares for NBA Draft

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We all knew this was coming, but on Thursday he made it official:

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is declaring for the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick. He made the announcement at a rally on the Tech campus Thursday, then took his message to social media.

Culver, a 6’6” wing player, passes the eye test for an NBA wing, he can shoot from the outside (he only hit 30.4 percent from three this season, but it was 38 percent the season before and his stroke looks good), he can put the ball on the floor and get inside, and he may have the best feel for the game of any wing prospect in this draft. The only question is athleticism — he’s not a classically explosive, and the NBA is loaded with freak athletes on the wing.

Still, Culvert looks like a rotation wing player with the potential to be more, and that should land him comfortably in the top 10 in this draft (likely 5-8).

Nuggets take 13-game losing streak in San Antonio into Game 3

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In 2009, Carlos Boozer had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Jazz’s win over the Spurs. Paul Millsap backed him up.

A couple months later, Boozer had 31-13 in another Jazz win over the Spurs. Again, Millsap backed him up.

Late in the 2012-13 season, rookie Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers to a blowout of the Spurs. Will Barton played three minutes in garbage time.

Those are the only three times current Nuggets starters have won in San Antonio.

After splitting the first two games of their first-round series in Denver, the Nuggets must win at least once in San Antonio to advance. The first opportunity comes in Game 3 tonight.

Denver has lost 13 straight road games against the Spurs – a drought longer than the careers of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The Nuggets’ other starters didn’t fare much better before joining Denver. Barton went 1-5 in San Antonio with Portland. Millsap went 2-20 in San Antonio with Utah and Atlanta.

Even several notches below their dynasty status, the Spurs remain especially tough at home.

The Spurs went 32-9 at home and 16-25 on the road this season. Maybe that’s an aberration in a limited sample. But they also went 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road last season.

That’s a 79% win percentage at home and 37% on the road. The last time a team had such a large disparity over a two-year span was the 2008-2009 Jazz.

This might just be San Antonio’s post-Kawhi Leonard identity.

Here are the largest home-road win percentage differences in the last decade:

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There’s another possibility: It’s not that the Spurs are that good at home. It’s that they’re that bad on the road.

But San Antonio trailed only the Nuggets, Bucks and Raptors in home record this season.

The Spurs also won Game 1 in Denver, where the altitude has historically given the Nuggets a strong homecourt advantage. If Denver dropped that game to a lousy road team, that’d be its own problem.

Either way, the Nuggets have a real challenge on their hands.

Kevin Porter Jr. a possible lottery pick heading into 2019 NBA draft

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Kevin Porter Jr. missed more than a quarter of his freshman season at USC due to injury. He missed another couple games due to suspension. When he played, he usually came off the bench. He’s only 18.

But Porter has already shown enough to impress NBA teams.

Porter, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft and I will be signing with Roc Nation Sports,” Porter told ESPN.

Porter has a wide possible range in the first round, because there’s a massive gap between his ceiling and floor. But it shouldn’t take too long for a team to bet on his upside.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Porter has a special combination of shiftiness and power with the ball in his hands. He can attack the rim and finish above it. He can also pull up for jumpers.

I don’t trust his 41% 3-point shooting at USC. That came on only 68 attempts, and he made just 52% of his free throws (though that was also on an unreliably small sample, just 46 attempts). But his stroke looks compact and smooth.

Porter can be an impressive passer. Right now, that’s more so making quick and correct standstill reads than distributing while driving.

If he improves his handle, that could really tie together all his skills.

Porter forces too many bad shots. He’s not attentive enough defensively. There are questions about his maturity.

But if he pans out at the next level, he could be awesome.