Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Carmaré: Brotherly Love or Sibling Rivalry?

Let’s say you have a player — we’ll call him Max — that, whenever the offense is run through him, the team’s offensive efficiency increases by 30%. Unfortunately, Max is not the greatest of defenders. In fact, he prefers to take short naps while his team is on defense, curling up at center court and allowing his teammates to play four against five. As a result of his poor defense, the opposing team’s offensive efficiency improves by 20% whenever he is on the floor. Still, as long as Max is the center of the offense, his team is looking pretty good. A 30% increase is, after all, better than a 20% one. 

But wait! Max has a twin brother named Hortense, and they are really dying to play together. They feel nostalgic for those games of two-on-two from their childhood. Hortense is not the same player as Max, but he’s similar. When the offense is run through him, the team’s scoring efficiency improves by 20%. On defense he’s slightly less comatose. He rebounds pretty well, and sometimes he tries to stay in front of his man. Still, due to his inconsistency of effort and focus, opposing offenses improve by 10% with him on the floor.

So what happens when Amare and… err I mean Max and Hortense are on the floor together? Well, their combined poor defense results in a 30% increase in opponents’ offensive efficiency, and if they’re well-disciplined and always run the offense through Max (despite Hortense’s continual complaints), they also score 30% more efficiently. They are a .500 team.

Obviously this is a simplification, but I don’t think it’s that far off. When you have guys who are only elite when they have the ball in their hands, do not play good defense, and aren’t great passers, the law of diminishing returns weighs heavily on them. Sure, there is the benefit of being able to always have a scorer on the floor, and certain matchups may favor one scorer, but overall, it’s the worst kind of skill replication there is. For evidence, you can look here and see that New York was at least as successful with Carmelo on the floor and Amaré off as with the two playing together. Compare those numbers to Boston’s lineups where any lineup without three of their big four has a negative +/-. Every other lineup is dominant. That’s healthy. The Knicks are not. However, as the minutes for New York’s alternate lineups post-trade are too small to make any grand conclusions, let’s compare this union to past unions or disunions of high usage players:

Zach Randolph –
Age 25-27 average WS/48: .086
Age 28-29 average WS/48: .169 

Notable changes: Left the Clippers/New York, where his interior scoring ability was replicated by Kaman and Curry, for Memphis, where the low-post belonged to him.

Ben Gordon –
Age 23-25 average WS/48: .123
Age 26-27 average WS/48: .048

Notable changes: Left Chicago via free agency for Detroit, where his skills were replicated by Richard Hamilton.

Vince Carter –
Age 34 WS/48 (with Orlando): .160
Age 34 WS/48 (with Phoenix): .060

Notable changes: Was traded to Phoenix, where he was expected to be more of a role player, catching and shooting or else moving the basketball.

Kevin Durant –
Age 21 WS/48: .238
Age 22 WS/48: .189

Notable changes: Westbrook’s usage rate jumped 5%. Durant’s usage only fell by 1.4% but the way he was using those possessions changed as Durant became more of a catch-and-shoot role, evidenced by his increased three point attempts and decreased free throw attempts.

Players that are at least as valuable as off-ball scorers and/or are good defensive players do not suffer from these sorts of fluctuations as often and are more likely to benefit from a diversity of offensive talent. Pau Gasol, for example, has been far more effective in LA, where he can focus more on defense (his rebound rate improved significantly) and doesn’t have to force his offense (thus the lower turnover rate and more efficient scoring). Ray Allen, who is just as comfortable (or perhaps more comfortable) catching and shooting as being the number one option, has arguably had four of his top five seasons since joining Boston.

What does all this mean? Well, I think Carmelo has made a case with his hot shooting that he can be effective off the ball. However, is he willing to play that role? Is his friend Chauncey willing and able to facilitate an offense where Carmelo is playing that role? Is our new general manager (or owner) willing to employ a coach who will spread the floor and run pick and roll?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” I see Stoudemire’s effectiveness declining in a big way. Sure, he’ll make his share of 18-footers, but without pick and roll action with a good PnR point guard, Stoudemire is a huge liability. He is bad off the dribble and so can’t punish defenders who are closing out. He is capable from 18 feet, but that’s the most inefficient shot in the game, and he is a bad defender and rebounder. If we don’t need him as an initiator of the offense, then he is no better than, say, Thaddeus Young, who while maybe not the shooter that Stoudemire is, is just as good a rebounder and a superior defender. You know what happens when 28 year old All-Stars with major knee surgeries in their past start looking like Thaddeus Young? Their trade value plummets. 

That means the Knicks have to go to their local Kinko’s, and they have to ask the pimple-faced dude behind the counter to print a poster at the largest size that says, “Get a point guard that has the backbone, the will, and the skill to run the offense through Amaré Stoudemire, or else trade him. Deadline: 2/23/12.” Heck, even if you have a secret paper with Chris Paul’s signature across the bottom that says he’s committed to coming to New York, I still think if an offer comes along this summer for a player of equal value to Stoudemire but who makes his living more off defense and/or playing off the ball on offense (say Andrew Bogut or Joakim Noah), that’s a trade that you jump on, especially if a certain coach with a striking resemblance to the Pringles man is no longer employed here.

30 comments on “Carmaré: Brotherly Love or Sibling Rivalry?

  1. Nick C.

    Nice article. Hopefully they can get in some sort of training camp and we can find out if Billups, Melo and Amare can all effectively co-exist. Or whether the mantra they need “training cam..time” is just as BS as it was when teh previous GM was using it as an excuse.

  2. ess-dog

    This team is clearly waiting on Chris Paul, probably excited about the lockout, and resting up. The longer we are locked out, the less likely the league will sell the NOH and therefore trade Paul. Then he just waltzes up to NYC.
    I love Billups but he should be playing in LA with Kobe. The Knicks need an expert distributor to get the ball to Amare and Melo in the right spots. That just isn’t going to happen this year with Billups.
    So we are again waiting…
    Even if we don’t get Paul, maybe we get Nash and worst case, Jameer Nelson who runs the p&r very well.

  3. Garson

    Just saw this from realgm…http://basketball.realgm.com/wiretap/214779/Source_DAntoni_Would_Prefer_To_Hire_Frank_As_Defensive_Specialist

    This is what all of us knickerbloggers have been waiting for! .
    Franks defensive knowledge coupled with Dantonis Offensive mind couldnt be more perfect.

    Even if its only for a season, if they can get Melo and Amare to rid themselves of some of their bad habbits, this could be a small move that pays off for seasons to come.

    The best part is, they dont have to strive for top 5 defensive numbers. If they can climb into the mid tier of defensive team numbers then i think we can do some special things.

  4. Jim Cavan

    Good stuff, Latke.

    I personally would hate to see Stat traded. Yeah he’s got his faults, and at 28, the window be closin’ fast. Still, the whole reason his arrival was such a good story was because a) he wanted to come here, and b) teams were scared off by his injuries. Every team but us, apparently. Even though he’s got some good distance between him and his past snags, I just don’t see how any team would offer a trade package we’d accept — unless it was laughably lopsided. Who knows though. Weirder things have happened.

  5. latke Post author

    Yeah, it’ll never happen, and I think in a perfect world it would be the wrong move, but if egos or coaching beliefs prevent us from taking advantage of the maximum STAT has to offer, it’s sort of a disservice to him to keep him here.

  6. SeeWhyDee77

    Interesting take…even better names and article. Lol..Max and Hortense..lmao. But being as old school as I am, if we are indeed keeping both scorers, then I’d say run the offense through Max- the “interior” player. But I’m not sure if Hortense would adjust well enough to thrive. I know their cousin Chauncey would. This will problee never happen because of Max’s salary, injury history and lack of defense..but at this point I’d rather trade Max an build around Hortense- regardless of how good Max has been for us. Hortense is a more versatile scorer and plays better defense. I do think both can thrive together..they just need a different type of PG to do it. And a more stern coach. Before Melo arrived I would never have considerin moving Stat. Dude was playin awesome. But now we have an even more deadly scorer..so I am now very amenable to movin Stat. Even if it were for 2 lesser players who play defense and can score off the ball..or at least not need the ball so much and in a special way so that they may thrive. Like I said..Stat’s not gettin moved so It’s up to Chauncey and Mike D to work things out somehow so that we can take advantage of the loads of buckets that Melo and Amar’e can provide.

  7. Count Zero

    I think ess-dog has it right — the Knicks are now waiting on CP3.

    If I take this Max & Hortense story at face value (and I’m not sure that I do), then several things come to mind:

    (1) We’re paying two-thirds of our cap for two players who are cumulatively worth 0 wins — IF they run the offense through Amare. Negative wins if not. Do you really believe that to be true?
    (2) Billups will never be the PG you want him to be. He was a great all-around PG who took good care of the ball and made shots when you needed them. He finished in the top 5 in APG just once in his entire career, and has never been known for his elite passing skills.

    But I don’t really buy into your argument mainly because the sample size on Max & Hortense playing together isn’t sufficient to draw the conclusion.

    Hey, I’m the first person to tell you we never should have gutted the team to get ‘Melo. In fact, I doubt I would have grabbed ‘Melo even if he was a FA and it cost me nothing but a max contract. But it’s water under the bridge now. You are NEVER going to get fair value on STAT in a trade (especially if material changes to the CBA make his contract even more onerous), so you better figure out a way to make it work with Max & Hortense on the floor at the same time. I have no doubt that Nash could do it, but I see that as a poor option at this stage in his career unless the Suns would in fact take Chauncey and Shumpert in return (doubtful).

    I think we pretty much backed ourselves into a “need CP3″ corner. He is pretty much the only guy (or likely to be available guy) who will be able to come in and dictate the offense to Max & Hortense.

  8. New Guy

    It’s not necessary to receive fair value for Amar’e in a trade. In fact, why would you? If we need to trade Amar’e it should be for draft picks, a cheap role player or two, and expiring contracts. Because then in the summer of 2012 we’d have Melo and enough cap space to sign Paul AND Howard.

    This is actually the fastest, most direct route to winning a championship with this group. Also the most heartless, as Amar’e deserves better.

  9. Jafa

    I am against trading STAT after he gave us winning basketball after years of futility and the LeBron snub. We can’t trade that man after one year of excellent service. We can discuss trading him after we see how it goes in Year 2, but I choose to be loyal to my Knicks, especially the ones who play hard for us.

    I say leave STAT and Melo intact. Everyone else on the roster can be traded if the opportunity arises.

  10. latke Post author

    Count Zero: (1) We’re paying two-thirds of our cap for two players who are cumulatively worth 0 wins — IF they run the offense through Amare. Negative wins if not. Do you really believe that to be true?

    The example pegs them at .500, which means the amare/melo core is worth 41 wins. I don’t know that that’s accurate. I chose the example to illustrate what happens when you play a Heat style offense with players who are not elite defenders. The team is choosing between STAT and ‘Melo in a way where they are not taking full advantage of the star who does not have the ball. When the Knicks give ‘melo the ball in the post, STAT plays the role of Kurt Thomas: camping out 20 feet away and shooting when the defense helps off of him. While he is a talented shooter, it is far from his most valuable offensive skill. He is most valuable in the PnR when he can catch the ball on his way to the rim.

    By contrast, ‘Melo is a perimeter shooter that demands respect, the difference between he and Amaré being that ‘melo can punish teams with a dangerously efficient shot: the 3-pointer. Also unlike Amaré he is potent off the dribble, allowing him to eviscerate recovering defenders. These two skills make him impossible to help off of. This means that, unlike STAT, when ‘Melo is not the 1st option, he can still have a powerful impact on the team’s ability to score.

    The problem has been that more often than not, Billups has made Carmelo the 1st option, and while Carmelo is capable of scoring this way, as a second option STAT can’t punish teams as efficiently. Furthermore, because isos occur on one side of the floor rather than in the middle, doubles require that the ball be rotated around the perimeter. With high PnR, there is a higher probability of finding the open man with the first pass, thus providing him with a better look.

  11. Frank

    The simplest (schematically – although maybe hardest to pull off in reality) is just to have Melo and Amare run the PNR together. If we believe that Billups is better as a ball caretaker and 3P shooter (sort of a triangle PG role as opposed to playing the Steve Nash SSOL role), then the best way to set up the offense would be to have the ball go to Melo with Billups/Fields in the corners.

    In the playoffs especially I was pretty impressed with Melo’s ability to pass the ball to cutters and spot-up guys. He’s not the greatest ballhandler in the world, but he is so long that he can probably turn the corner and get to the hoop in just a few steps. He’s also a great pull-up shooter if the defender goes behind the screen. The question is whether he can make the pass to Amare or find the open man if they rotate over to guard Amare. Maybe rather than flying all over the place in the offseason, he should be practicing these things (he might be doing both for all I know).

  12. Jafa

    Schedule is out. We get LeBron on opening night, 29 national TV appearances, Melo in Denver in the 3rd week of the season, 10 of the first 13 games on the road and the Celtics on Christmas afternoon.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/knicks

    Of course, this could all be a moot point if we have no season.

  13. Count Zero

    @12

    Agreed — I was saying this to someone a few weeks ago. The ideal person to run the PNR with STAT is actually ‘Melo.

    @11

    Understood, but in my mind a .500 team is league average. (Kind of like an OPS+ of 100 in MLB.) So if you tell me that a player is net 0.0, then you are telling me that he is league average, provides no value above a league average player, and is clearly not worth a max contract. In the case of STAT and Melo, that doesn’t pass the sniff test although whether they are enough above league average to make them max contract players is definitely in question.

    I also don’t see how you can make a generalization that a 3-pt shot is “dangerously efficient.” How efficient it is depends on how often you make it. That’s what we have TS% and eFG for. STAT has historically been a much more “efficient” scorer than Melo, although we agree that he is not when he is taking 18′ jumpers. Melo has never been an “efficient” scorer at any time in his career — especially not from 3pt range.

  14. BigBlueAL

    I probably shouldnt even bother getting NBA League Pass considering the Knicks have 29 games on national TV. What year is this, 1993??

  15. KnickfaninNJ

    I’d like to seem Amare and Melo play together before we rule them out as good team mates on the Knicks. Of course there are examples of players overlapping in skill sets and not being as productive together as apart, but there are other examples where people say it won’t work and it does. It seems to depend on the coach and the players. Consider Frazier and Monroe. A lot of press was written saying the Knicks couldn’t use both effectively when Monroe joined the team, but it definitely worked out. You could also consider James and Wade. they made it to the seventh game of the finals and I don’t think they lost because they overlapped too much. Both Amare and Carmelo want to make it work and D’Antoni great at using offensive players creatively, so let’s give it a chance.

  16. Count Zero

    @9

    This doesn’t even make sense. Zeke? Is that you?

    Do you honestly think someone is going to trade some good role players, draft choices (low-mid 1st round) and $10MM+ of expiring contracts to take on STAT’s contract? If they did, that would actually be fair value wouldn’t it? More likely you will either get draft choices and one or more dog contracts to match Amare’s, or valuable players with no picks.

    More to the point, trading an all-star for picks is what you do when you want to rebuild. So you are saying we should just throw in the towel on everything we did the past three seasons and re-enter rebuilding mode? Not likely…

  17. SeeWhyDee77

    Frank:
    The simplest (schematically – although maybe hardest to pull off in reality) is just to have Melo and Amare run the PNR together.If we believe that Billups is better as a ball caretaker and 3P shooter (sort of a triangle PG role as opposed to playing the Steve Nash SSOL role), then the best way to set up the offense would be to have the ball go to Melo with Billups/Fields in the corners.

    In the playoffs especially I was pretty impressed with Melo’s ability to pass the ball to cutters and spot-up guys.He’s not the greatest ballhandler in the world, but he is so long that he can probably turn the corner and get to the hoop in just a few steps. He’s also a great pull-up shooter if the defender goes behind the screen. The question is whether he can make the pass to Amare or find the open man if they rotate over to guard Amare. Maybe rather than flying all over the place in the offseason, he should be practicing these things (he might be doing both for all I know).

    yea..I was sayin the same thing in the previous thread. I would have no problem with a Melo Stat p&r. Especially with Billups and Fields spottin up. Stat’s skill set pretty much makes him way more valuable as the #1 option..but if Melo initiates the p&r with Stat and it works..2 things are guaranteed. 1- that would put crazy pressure on ANY defense. And 2- we’d still have 2 players average 26 a game. I like it. However, if a trade opportunity arises..then we should move Stat. I love what he’s done so far and I love his presence on the team..but who’s deal is more likely 2 become an albatross? Right. No use in holdin on to him if a deal is available.

  18. latke Post author

    @14
    I sort of see what you’re talking about regarding the baseball thing. Here’s the thing though — put two average players in stat/melo’s shoes, and you have a 20 win team. I’m not sure the stat translates, although maybe it’s just that the rest of the knicks are mostly bad.

    What I meant was that post trade it was dangerously efficient for melo. He shot 42.4%… a TS% from 3 of 63.4%. He won’t keep that up, of course, but 38% I think is a reasonable optimistic target if he has Amare pulling the defense in for him. The very problem I’m talking about comes from the fact that not everyone is dangerously efficient from out there (for example Amaré) and thus not everyone can spread the floor as well.

    re: stat/melo PnR — They did run it sometimes, and if I remember had some success. I’m not sure how ‘melo is any better as the initiator though than Billups. What you gain in scoring ability you lose in passing ability. You also make it easier for opponents to switch, since whoever’s guarding melo is probably big enough to put up a fight against STAT.

  19. CRJoe

    But if we’re running the P&R with Carmare, we would need a center who is a legitimate threat away from the basket, otherwise it would be too simple to just keep the defending center close to the basket and make the 2 guys defending the P&R contest ‘Melo’s shot hard, and force them into the paint and into help defense from the center…

    The only other option is to play Amar’e at center, further hurting him, to end up having the same result in the postseason… A banged up Amar’e playing at half steam…

  20. Grymm

    I don’t really see Amare as ever really being tradeable. Very few teams can even consider having a 20M/yr uninsured contract. Then there is the stigma at least for the time being of trading the guy who said “NY is back” and then got them to .500 for the first time in a decade. Lastly, if you are a believer in stars attracting stars, you would go back from 2 to 1 and hurt your chance of getting that third.

    I think the Knicks can work on a bunch of plays to score a ton of points. The Stat/Fields give and go worked pretty well. I also think if you had a defensive assistant and a true “we’re trying to win a championship” environment, you could get at least average defense from Melo and Stat. In the playoffs, you’d want better than average defense overall so you’d need your other 3 playing pretty well with a good system.

    Question: whatever happened to boxing out in the NBA? It just seems to have died.

  21. James

    “What you gain in scoring ability you lose in passing ability. You also make it easier for opponents to switch, since whoever’s guarding melo is probably big enough to put up a fight against STAT.”

    I don’t think passing ability would be sacrificed if you switched out Bilups for Melo. I’d rate Melo’s passing ability higher than Billup’s and their willingness to pass out of a screen at about the same; more than that, I happen to think Melo’s one of the most talented passers in the league, he can make every single pass, from the crosscourt pass for the corner three, to a one-handed whip pass from the post, to a pocket bounce pass off a screen, he’s a very gifted passer…which makes his low assist numbers even more frustrating. A passer of his caliber should not have zero 20 percent or higher assist rates this deep into his career. His mentality needs a medium-sized shift from not trying to go on a scoring spree all the time.

    Even if he’s not passing much, Carmelo would benefit from getting a little more space with a screen. Sometimes it’s a grind for him to get past his man off an iso so that even when he finally does, the help has had time to get into place and make his shots at the rim difficult. Getting even a slightly more clear path to the hoop should help his paint scoring efficiency.

  22. New Guy

    Count Zero:
    @9

    This doesn’t even make sense. Zeke? Is that you?

    Do you honestly think someone is going to trade some good role players, draft choices (low-mid 1st round) and $10MM+ of expiring contracts to take on STAT’s contract? If they did, that would actually be fair value wouldn’t it? More likely you will either get draft choices and one or more dog contracts to match Amare’s, or valuable players with no picks.

    More to the point, trading an all-star for picks is what you do when you want to rebuild. So you are saying we should just throw in the towel on everything we did the past three seasons and re-enter rebuilding mode? Not likely…

    Easy, fella, no need to call someone Zeke. Is there a worse insult in the world?

    I think you misunderstood my point. I was saying if it is determined that Melo and Amar’e can’t coexist and one needs to be moved at the trading deadline (which was the scenario put forth before me), there is no need to seek out fair value in the trade market for Amar’e because there is fair value for him in the free agent market. With Amar’e off the books we’d have cap room to sign two max free agents this summer, i.e. Paul and Howard. And the picks would be to help build a supporting cast at low cost, which would be vital if you assembled a big three. That’s hardly rebuilding.

    Also, you’d be trading an All Star with a 3.25-year contract at that point, so I don’t think he’d lack interest. I think his injury concerns were greatly overblown as he has proven quite durable when not attempting ludicrous dunks during warmups.

    Again, though, we are talking nuclear options. I’d rather let the two play together and see if it can work. But if you wanted to be heartless, the Knicks could easily dump him for picks and expiring contracts at the deadline and then go for a more compatible big three of…

  23. adrenaline98

    Call me sentimental, but I’d rather have .500 basketball with Stat than trade him.

    That is also because I believe both these players have played either in a wholly offensive scheme or because they were the primary scoring option. I believe with time and a training camp, these two players will feed off each others’ need to win. They are both in their prime now and understand what winning basketball is about. I think both of them could improve defensively for the Knicks to move beyond being a .500 team.

    They both have the swagger to make the Knicks a winning basketball team. They both have the max contracts that dictate you must win. They don’t need to worry about averaging 25 a game being paid 18 million a year. Short of getting Howard, Paul + Amare or Melo, I actually want to see how much of their “defense wins” talks become reality.

  24. adrenaline98

    Also, I think it’s sad how a lot of you shit on Stat the way you do. Maybe it’s not intentional, but it’s downright wrong. There are plenty of defensive role players in the NBA, very few that can get you 25 a night consistently. Stat is worth way more than a couple of role players with a few mid-low round draft picks, or expiring contracts, which are plentiful as well. Capspace means dick if you don’t actually sign a player by the way. Look at the Kings.

    The only player that was worth the risk, truly, was for LeBron. Beyond that, I wouldn’t trade Stat for a CHANCE at someone else except maybe D12.

  25. danvt

    You miss the point with Max and Hortense. Amare and Melo came together for the same reason Pau and Kobe came together and the same reason LBJ et al came together. These guys actually do want to play the game right. They don’t want to be the only option anymore. They want to play off the ball, get position and rebound, use their fouls, etc. And, Amare/ Melo may not be the very best talent out there, compared to those I mentioned, but they are very good, and, I think, playing off the ball and having plays get made for you sounds like a challenge they can handle.

    Let me get back to guys using their fouls. I mean, Amare had to step away or who was coming in? Shelden Williams? He had to stay out there and he couldn’t afford to go as hard as he could defensively. A good bench player or two can make a difference in the way a guys stats look and, more importantly, in the success of the lead players on a team, both offensively and defensively.

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