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

23 Comments

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:

image

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Thursday night’s games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Thursday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

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.

D’Angelo Russell drops 40 on Magic including shot that put Nets up for good

Associated Press
1 Comment

D'Angelo Russell is playing like a guy in a contract year. And that’s just fine with Brooklyn.

Russell tied his career best with 40 points Friday night against the Magic, including hitting the shot that put the Nets up for good on the night with 27 seconds remaining. Russell was 16-of-25 shooting, including 8-of-12 from three, and he was an analytics dream — Russell took all but one of his shots either in the paint or from three.

The Nets — now 24-23 on the season and the sixth seed in the East — came from 21 back to get the win and that included their guards hitting the big shots at the end.

First up was Spencer Dinwiddie.

Then came Russell’s shot that proved to be the game winner.

With the Nets extending Dinwiddie during the season, it’s unlikely Russell returns to Brooklyn next season, but a number of teams are interested in him as a free agent (restricted, the Nets can match if the offer is low).

Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break

Getty Images
2 Comments

The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.

And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.

The Nuggets are hoping Thomas will make his debut next month, right before the All-Star Break, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.

There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….

The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.

Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.

Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).

If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.

Report: Kings’ Buddy Hield in 3-point contest

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Players who’ve attempted more than seven 3-pointers per game while making more than 40% of them this season:

Sharing company with only the greatest shooter of all-time will earn Hield a spot in the 3-point contest.

Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140:

Sacramento getting three players into the Rising Stars Challenge for the second straight year speaks to the team’s nice collection of young talent. Bogdan Bogdanovic (who won MVP last year) and De'Aaron Fox return to the game. No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III replaces Hield, who ages out.

Hield has a chance in the 3-point contest, though the league is better from beyond the arc than ever. He’ll certainly have plenty of competition.

PBT Extra: Five players to watch heading into the NBA’s trade deadline

Leave a comment

It’s going to be a slow NBA trade deadline this year.

The reason it will be relatively quiet on Feb. 7 (the deadline day) this year is reflected in the five players to watch talked about in this PBT Extra. The bottom line: There are far more buyers than sellers.

Take Trevor Ariza in Washington, for example. A number of playoff teams are looking for wings on expiring contracts to help them out — the Rockets and Lakers are at the front of that line — but Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said the team the team will not tank, so is Ariza even available.

Or, what about Terrence Ross in Orlando? Another wing a lot of teams have interest in, but is Orlando selling?

And while the Dallas Mavericks have made public overtures about reconciliation with Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell me the plan on both sides is still to find a trade, it’s just right now the offers are lowball ones (because the Mavs have no leverage and there will be good young point guards such as Terry Rozier and D'Angelo Russell available in July as restricted free agents, and teams like them better).

Still, there will be trades. These are the guys to watch.