With the Knicks finally acquiring Carmelo Anthony, I thought I’d take a close look at New York’s latest All Star from a few different perspectives. In each area, I attempted to use statistics to lead the discussion.
WHO DOES CARMELO COMPARE TO HISTORICALLY?
A few years ago I came up with my own method of finding historical players that are statistically similar to any given player. My method looks at a host of stats, and I can tweak it to just look at players of the same age, or within 1 year of a player’s age. The purpose of this is get some objective perspective on a player’s career arc. I’ve decided to run both searches against Carmelo’s Anthony last full season
|0.111||Billy Ray Bates||1982||POR||17.8|
|0.141||World B. Free||1979||SDC||22.1|
|0.111||Billy Ray Bates||25||1982||POR|
|0.13||World B. Free||26||1980||SDC|
|0.141||World B. Free||25||1979||SDC|
Compared to Stoudemire’s similar players, this list isn’t that impressive. Amar’e had multiple Hall of Fame quality players like McHale, Malone, Nowitzki, and Mourning. The most similar to ‘Melo seem to be Dominique Wilkins, Mark Aguirre, Xavier McDaniel, and Kelly Tripuka. All of them were high volume scorers with average efficiency and little ability to shoot threes. Aguirre, McDaniel, and Tripuka were borderline All Stars, with a total of 6 appearances among the bunch. ‘Nique is probably the best of all of ‘Melo’s comparables, and one of the few Hall of Famers on the list. From this evaluation, Carmelo Anthony isn’t at the same level as Amar’e Stoudemire or some of the other elite players in the league.
HOW GOOD IS CARMELO NOW?
In just about every other Carmelo article, the author feels the need to rank Anthony with respect to his peers. For instance recently New York Times author William C. Rhoden said “Anthony is one of the N.B.A.’s top 10 players and one of its most productive scorers ever.” It’s a strong statement, but does it hold water? Here are some of the NBA’s best players in first name order.
I don’t see any rational argument showing that Carmelo is currently better than any of these eleven players. He’s more likely is in this group:
Simply put, Carmelo isn’t one of the best players in the league. He’s more likely in the top 15, 20, 25 range. Hollinger’s PER has him ranked 22nd, and PER typically is favorable to players who score a good amount of points and ignores certain aspects of defense. Since Carmelo fits the mold of what PER values, it’s unlikely that Carmelo is underrated by this stat.
HOW DOES CARMELO FIT ON THIS TEAM?
This is perhaps the hardest to evaluate. From this article latke surmised that “volume scorers, if they don’t reform their ways, can be cancerous to SSOL (Vince Carter and Joe Johnson).” Granted in his article there are really only two volume scorers to go on, so perhaps this is a bit too overreaching.
Obviously the two areas where Carmelo and D’Antoni’s offense might have a conflict is in his ability to dominate the ball and his poor three point percentage. I don’t think there is a way to quantify the former, and I don’t think there is enough data to quantify the latter. For instance I thought it might be illuminating to see if player’s had their three point attempts increase when arriving in D’Antoni’s offense. But guys like Al Harrington and Larry Hughes saw their attempts increase prior to arriving under D’Antoni. Quentin Richardson saw his attempts balloon in Phoenix, but his New York numbers are about the same as his career averages elsewhere.
In essence I’m unable to determine how his effect will be on this team. Nor am I able to say at what rate Carmelo Anthony will attempt or hit three pointers, a vital part of the Knicks offense. ‘Melo has averaged anywhere between 24.3% and 37.1% from downtown. He’s only been above 34% twice, and he currently stands at 33.3%. Generally players can improve the rate in which they hit threes, but this isn’t true across the board. And given Carmelo’s eight years in the league, you’d think he would have honed in on this skill already. With most players you have a good idea on what their skills are, but this one piece for Carmelo Anthony is a big question mark. However with his career mark at 31.1% and his best season three years ago, the evidence falls on the doubtful category.
Kevin Pelton, someone with a little more NBA statistical expertise, has used his Shoene in an attempt to figure out how good New York will be. He has them as a 47-win team over a full season, but given the Knicks current record it likely only means a 1-2 game improvement over the remainder of the season. New York’s offense should be ranked 1st post-trade, but their defense will slide down to 23rd. Additionally New York’s improvement is given for all the players involved. Carmelo Anthony only represents 2.8 Wins Above Replacement Player, whereas Chauncey Billups is at 3.5 WARP.
This is the one area where the Carmelo optimists seem to draw most of their strength. Unfortunately they are intangible because they can’t be measured. One such intangible is that Anthony’s high volume will make the rest of the team more efficient. Unfortunately there is no way to prove this. Granted the Nuggets are currently the NBA’s best offensive team, however how much of that can be attributed to Carmelo? Denver has 4 rotation players with TS% higher than Melo (Nene, Billups, Affalo, and Lawson). The year before Chauncey Billups arrived the offense ranked 11th.
In trying to show that Kobe Bryant wasn’t very clutch, Henry Abbott inadvertantly might have revealed that Carmelo Anthony might be. Clutch ability is thought to be a boon to winning playoff series, but of Denver’s seven playoff appearances with Carmelo six have been first round exits. So if ‘Melo is a good clutch player, it certainly hasn’t been effective enough to get them out of the first round more than once.
The last intangible is ‘Melo’s star power, which might not help the team on the court (save for the occasional whistle). Instead Anthony’s luminosity could attract other stars. Could he be the missing link between Chris Paul or Dwight Howard coming to New York? That would be a huge attribute, but of course we’ll have to wait & see.