Carmelo Through the Years

Historically, statistics suggest Carmelo Anthony has not always impeded ball movement or prevented offensive flow. Over the course of his eight-year career, Anthony has primarily played with three point guards – Andre Miller, Allen Iverson, and Chauncey Billups. When Melo is paired with a point guard able to control the offense, the numbers prove he is not simply a stop-and-hold isolation player.

In Carmelo’s Rookie year (03-04), with Miller running the point, the Nuggets finished 9th in the league in assists per game. ‘Dre averaged 8.5 assists per 48 minutes – not a stellar number, but a solid one.  60% of the Nuggets FG’s were assisted, a number that held true regardless of whether or not Anthony was on the floor. In total, 55% of his baskets were assisted. The offense wasn’t just dumping it off and watching, but rather finding him in easy-to-score situations. Additionally, Anthony averaged 4asts/48 – an excellent number for a “shoot-first” rookie.

The Nuggets only improved in Anthony’s next two years, finishing second and third in the league in assists, respectively, with Miller averaging 10asts/48min. Even more impressive, 63% of Carmelo’s makes were off assists, including 64% of his jumpers. Clearly, he was not solely settling for contested shots. It helped tremendously, though, to have a pass-first guard orchestrating the offense, allowing Anthony to play to his strengths: getting position and scoring.

When “The Answer” (a true shoot-first guard) took over the reins on offense in 2006, Anthony only improved his contribution, averaging 5asts/48min and when he was on the floor. Meanwhile, 62% of the Nuggets FG’s were assisted – while off, this number dropped to 57%. Anthony, it should be noted, had a stellar offensive season, averaging 29ppg.

With Chauncey Billups at the helm in 2008-2010, the Nuggets fell to 18th in the league in assists. Billups averaged under 8 assists per 48 minutes (the lowest of any PG Anthony had played with, including Iverson), and thus Melo’s isolation habits began to show. 64% of his FGA’s were jumpers, as opposed to his usual number somewhere in the mid 50s.  Even more shocking, his scoring was only assisted 42% of the time, a far-cry from the 60% he was used to.

This year, playing without any semblance of a point guard thus far, Carmelo’s stats paint an ugly picture: Only 30% of his FG’s have been assisted, and his 42 eFG% similarly marks a career low. A whopping 77% of his shots have been jumpers – a 20% increase over years past — while a mere 1% have been dunks. Currently, the Knicks are 20th in the league in assists. Needless to say, however, it seems as though help has finally arrived.

In terms of guards, Anthony will soon be playing with arguably the best pure passer he’s ever called a teammate in Jeremy Lin, with the second year Harvard man averaging 14asts/48. As such, the perennial All-Star won’t be forced into point-guard duties – as he was for much of this season’s first stretch – and the ball movement won’t start with him. Now, Melo’s main concern will be moving without the ball, running the pick and roll, finding open spaces, and finishing at the rim.

Jeremy Lin has proven he will reward hustle and persistence.  Statistics prove Carmelo performed well in an up-tempo, fluid offense in Denver. Since his pairing with Billups, the isolations have drastically increased. Now, with a smart, young point guard, it’s time to prove everyone wrong.

Jeremy Lin, By The Books

Jeremy Lin is your textbook point guard. He focuses on penetrating into the lane, keeping his dribble until an option presents itself, and making the safe pass to the open man. He appears poised at times, but that doesn’t prevent him from playing an energetic brand of basketball. Lin is averaging 1.7 stl/36 and is able to run the fast break.

The Knicks, lately devoid of Melo and STAT, are on a three-game win streak since D’Antoni inserted Lin into the lineup during the Nets game. Perhaps it’s because Lin fits the Knicks better than the other point guards on the roster. Douglas and Bibby frequently pick up their dribble and prefer to stay outside the arc instead of “wetting” their feet in the paint.

Like Steve Nash or Jason Kidd, Lin weaves in and out of the paint, continuing his dribble even through crowds of defenders. Once he’s near the basket, he has an innate ability to assess the defense. If it’s one-on-one, he can finish at the rim and has the knack for drawing the and-1 foul, as seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5vKayhN2Ug. If he is double-teamed, he either kicks it out to a shooter, or finds a big man rolling to the hoop, like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B3MRqMwh54.

In the last three games, Jeremy is shooting 59% from the field, 80% from the line, and averaging 25 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds in 39 minutes per game. His shot still needs work, but the form looks good. Most of his jumpers so far have fallen short, which would indicate his legs aren’t in “basketball shape.” Thus far Lin has faced some of the league’s weaker teams. As the season progresses opponents will prepare better for him by crowding the middle, taking away his right hand, and forcing him to take more jump shots. The Lakers on Friday will be his toughest challenge to date.

Jeremy Lin is a Harvard grad who went undrafted in 2010. His game may be elementary, but Lin seems to be excelling where other players from big name schools have failed.

Preseason Thoughts

Sitting here on Christmas Eve – 24 hours before the Knicks tip off their season – my thoughts fluctuate between excitement, anxiousness, and fear – excited at the chances of a Championship, anxious from the lockout, and fearful of injuries. Here are my final thoughts (and feel-good YouTube clips) before the Knicks dive headfirst into 2011-2012.

STAT has been too passive thus far. Since ‘Melo joined the team, Amar’e hasn’t been the same. In the first half of last season, he would dominate teams in and out of the paint on the offensive end. Now, the offense moves completely through Anthony and he gets every big shot. Amar’e shoots a better TS% and eFG than Carmelo, and needs to be given the ball more in clutch situations – otherwise he will never regain the confidence a team leader needs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C93i_KFetdw

Toney Douglas looks just as he did last year, if not worse. This must be pretty evident to the Knicks front office as well. Iman has started practicing with the first team, and Baron Davis is the plan at point guard in the near future. Toney just does not have a high basketball IQ. He has a ton of raw talent and plenty of athleticism, but besides a few streaks of three pointers, his play has been uninspiring. He seems wholly unsure on offense and a bit slow on defense. I like him as a backup two – able to handle the ball well and provide some scoring. Let’s hope he can do this again – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2jvQvNiegs

– The Knicks’ defense is above average and Tyson is the main reason.  In the second preseason game against the Nets, Chandler personally altered about five or six shots in the paint – all misses. Most games the team lost last year were only by a few points. If Chandler can save 6-10 points a game, New York’s record could dramatically improve. I don’t think they have a top-ten defense, but I think the Knicks will finish top 15 (last year 21st) in defensive efficiency – good enough to contend for a title. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm4pXT0ar8E

Carmelo Anthony at PG may be the best option right now. Until Davis is healthy or Douglas can pass, I don’t see many other choices. His ball handling is great; he draws the double team constantly, and is able to find the open man. He also can pull up from three. The only issue is he will be outmatched in speed, so he couldn’t drive by opposing point guards.  Still, he could play a point forward position, and matchup with other small forwards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7k8R-Yei_Y

Iman Shumpert has a real shot at being legit. He is confident, aggressive, and fundamentally sound. His ball-handling is great, his shooting form is excellent, and his defense, with some work, could eventually stop anyone in this league.  I think his ceiling is a solid, all-around All-Star who can deliver about 18pts and 6asts per game – a far-shot from the disgust expressed by many when we first drafted him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWBZaajteXU

Balkman and Harrellson deserve a shot. Both provided quality hustle minutes off the bench, and didn’t make too many mistakes. Josh missed a few shots, but that’s to be expected. Balkman was scoring easily and grabbing a bunch of boards. I expect each to get maybe 5 or 10 minutes off the bench for at least the first few games. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9NPhWY664Q

– Overall I predict great improvement with room left to perfect the chemistry. I think this squad can ultimately win a Championship. This year, the Knicks go 38 – 28 and make it to the second round of the playoffs. Happy holidays and a healthy New Year!

Put On For Your City

My whole perspective on the lockout, and the NBA in general, changed today when my friend asked, “Will anyone really care about Kobe’s Denver Citibank Armadillos vs. Lebron’s Akron MetLife Wildcats?” He was referencing Amar’e Stoudemire’s recent suggestion of the players creating their own league with its own season. “No,” I responded, “No one would.” Up until this summer, I always thought the players were the only focus in the NBA. Now, I am realizing the heart of the league lies much deeper.

It dawned on me that real fans, like myself, yearn for the league and the game, not necessarily the stars. Throughout the summer we have all watched or heard of Durant, LeBron, ‘Melo, Wade, and others hoop it up across the country. For an hour or two, these games provide entertainment and discussion, but they are simply a façade of the real deal.  I get the feeling stars think all we want is to see them put on a show – throw down uncontested dunks on one end while playing matador D’ on the other.

Truth is, I don’t have nearly the same attachment to Melo as he shoots in a Miami exhibition as I do when he is wearing a New York jersey shooting against the 76’ers. I don’t check Amare’s stats when he is playing for “Wade’s” team, but after any Knicks game, I scour the box score for hours.  During the lockout, I have become detached from the players and more attached to my team – the Knicks.

Real fans don’t invest their love in the players so much as the city and the franchise. This is why Amare’s proposal of a player-run league does not excite me. Sure, it would be fun, in a way. But, if the stars think we are content with just seeing them in any uniform, they are sorely mistaken.  There are those out there who would LOVE Stoudemire’s idea.  Unfortunately, many of them are similar to the guy sitting next to me at the home opener last year. He wore an Anthony jersey, was decked in Knicks gear from head to toe, but shouted several times “who is number 23?!?”

Real fans love getting behind their team and representing them as best they can. The perfect example is the hatred towards LeBron by Knicks fans (again, including me) just moments after the “decision.” In the days, months, and years leading up to this, we were begging him to come to New York. We didn’t actually care about LeBron – we cared about the Knicks regaining power in the East.

The All-Stars have it wrong.  We are here to watch our team as a whole, from the end of the bench to the starters.  I will have more respect for Carmelo, or any player on the Knicks,  if he fights to bring basketball back to NY, rather than put up 45 against LeBron in an exhibition. We don’t want you to set up charity games. We want you to show the same desperation and urgency that Knicks fans have in starting the regular season. NBA players should stop worrying about playing overseas and, instead, fight for their team back in this country. At the end of the day, we all just want to see our team play and represent our city, no matter what shape or form.  The NBA is not only about the players, and they will be the last ones to realize.

Melo vs Goodman League Summer Ball

It’s great to see NBA players keeping active during the lockout.  With almost no progress made in labor talks thus far, professional leagues across the country have had to schedule their own games. Two of the most prominent leagues this Summer have been the Melo League in Baltimore and the George Goodman League of Washington D.C.  This past Tuesday, August 30th, these teams met on the court at Morgan State University for some friendly competition.  The Baltimore team featured three all-stars – LeBron, Melo, and Chris Paul – as well as Josh Selby (just drafted 49th by the Grizzlies) and Gary Neal of the Spurs. The Goodman league roster wasn’t as flashy, with Durant being their only star, backed up by Ty Lawson, Austin Daye, and Jarrett Jack.

The story of the night was Durant dropping 59. Though obviously the game was laid back and very little defense was played, 59 is still an impressive number – especially while being guarded by LeBron. Durant’s team fell, however, 149-141 when all was said and done.  Here are some of the highlights from the game – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LdzNpSsWp0 .

Notably, this was ‘Melo’s first game since recovering from an elbow injury suffered towards the end of this past season. “I’m back like I never [was hurt]. I’m back,” said Anthony after the game. He had a very good showing. He was quick to the basket and got up to throw it down a few times. Though there was no official box score kept, it is reported Carmelo scored 34. Seems promising for the year to come, and games like this can only help to expedite further labor talks.

Knicks Crush Raps to Continue Road Streak

Riding a 6 game road win streak, the Knicks faced off against the Raptors in Toronto. New York got off to a hot start, erupting for 33 points in the first quarter. They pushed the pace with Felton at the helm, recording 9 assists in the quarter. Chandler led all scorers with 12 first-quarter points, while Felton and Fields contributed 7 apiece. The Knicks hit 4 of 11 from 3-point range as well.

In the second, with Amar’e on the bench, the Raptors gained some ground. Leandro Barbosa served as the facilitator, while Jerryd Bayless was feeling it from outside and scored 11 in the quarter. Amar’e returned to the game, reaching double-double figures before the end of the half, and the Knicks went into halftime up by 10 points.

The third quarter belonged to the Raptors Amir Johnson, who put up 10 points and grabbed 8 boards, along with an ESPN Top Plays put-back dunk.  With the crowd fired up and Bayless continuing to shoot well, the home team cut the lead to 7 by the end of the third.  Amar’e scored consecutive baskets and Shawne Williams hit a three followed by a tip-in to start the fourth. Fortunately the Knicks scored rampantly as they poured in 34 in the final frame, crushing the Raptors by 17.

It was a solid showing from the Knicks on the road as they continue to win games that they are expected to. Amar’e continued his stellar play with 31 points and a season-high 16 rebounds, 5 of them on the offensive end. Rookie Landry Fields also recorded a double-double and Shawne Williams impressed off the bench, hitting 4-4 from beyond the arc and scoring 14 in just 21 minutes. 

The shorter rotation seems to be working for D’Antoni. I expect Douglas, Williams, and Mozgov to get the bulk of the minutes off the bench in the near future after the early-season uninspiring play from Anthony Randolph and Bill Walker. Gallinari continues to struggle with his shot, but is finding other ways to help the team. He grabbed 4 boards and dished 5 assists. In 40 minutes of action, though, he needs to find a way to score more than 6 points.

Other positives include the Knicks shooting 86% from the stripe and 44% from downtown.  The only negatives were being outrebounded and finishing with only two blocks while leading the league in swats per game. No one should be complaining, though, as New York matched its longest road winning streak since the 1994-95 season.  It has been a long time since the Knicks have had streaks of dominance like this, and the fans are hungry to see just how far they can roll.