BOSTON — Shane Battier is the poster-boy where advanced analytics are concerned, and had a reputation during his playing days of being one of the game’s more knowledgable defenders, taking in as much statistical information as possible in order to help him gain a competitive advantage.
While he admitted having difficulty guarding the game’s elite scorers regardless, there was one player that was so predictable in the way he played that Battier felt good in his ability to consistently shut him down: Carmelo Anthony.
“I had some success against him,” Battier said. “The numbers really play out with him, and as he’s gotten older, he has not been about reinvention. The last two years I played him, he did exactly what the scouting report said he was going to do, every single time.
“A lot of players will deviate — Kobe was so tough in his prime, or Durant or LeBron. But Carmelo, I knew what he was doing. He was on the left block, he’s going to dip his right shoulder and go to his left hand every single time — he travels every time, by the way; he travels every single time. But if I made him use his right hand and go over his left shoulder, he didn’t want to do that. And as a result, I was able to drain his efficiency.”
Battier may have had success most of the time against Anthony, at least in terms of forcing him into more difficult attempts that resulted in a lower shooting percentage. But given that Anthony is one of the league’s best scorers, all of the information in the world won’t be enough for someone with Battier’s skill set to stop him every time out — like the time Anthony dropped 50 on Battier’s Heat back in 2013.
Even after that one, however, Battier was unwavering in his praise of analytics, and felt good about his defensive performance in spite of the end result.
“The only time he got me was, he had the most unbelievable game,” Battier said. “This was like, the outlier of all outliers in terms of the numbers and analytics. He scored 50 points, and didn’t have one paint point. So, yeah. I was really feeling good about ‘any long non-paint two is a good shot’ after that game, right? He scored 50 points on me, ZERO paint points.”
“As far as the numbers were concerned, I always enjoyed Carmelo, because he knew what he was,” Battier said. “And he wasn’t apologizing for it; he’s really good at it. It was always fun to intellectually pit the numbers against his game.”