Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Melo-As-Screener Plz

Before the season began, I wrote an article for TheKnicksWall.com about Carmelo Anthony being used as a screener more on offense. The idea being to give opposing defenses a new look that’s a tough one to guard, while keeping Anthony out of those blasted and repetitive isolation sets. I’d like to revisit this piece of mine, to see what this past season’s statistics yield, and if Anthony should be utilized in this fashion far more often. (All forthcoming statistics provided by Synergy Sports.)

In the aforementioned post, I mentioned how, in the 2012 season, Melo was hardly used as a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop screen man, despite connecting on 61% of his 18 attempts operating out of those sets. For what it’s worth, none of his attempts were three-pointers (one could argue whether this was a good or bad thing).

This past season, Anthony put up 38 tries as a pick-and-roll man, shooting 60% from the field. Nine of those shots were attempted from downtown, of which he made 6. Synergy ranked him fifth in the entire league in scoring as a screener, yet these only accounted for a measly 2% of his offense. Looking through the plays on Synergy, there are a few things that stand out to me.

Like last year, the majority of these “screens” weren’t actually screens: Anthony would either 1) come in for one and, before setting it, slip to the basket or outside for a jumper; or 2) set himself lethargically without making any legitimate contact with the handler’s defender. Somehow, his unorthodox pick-setting played out to his benefit — for the most part. Although the ball handler was seldom able to find a lane to the basket, due to his defender being undaunted by Anthony’s half-hearted screen, Melo’s man often left him to help the handler’s defender because of Carmelo’s “I’m just going to set this bullshit screen to set it, I don’t really want to do anything here” body language. The result? An occasional open jumper.

Anthony’s slow strutting to the screen placement also often set the stage for him to quickly change direction and head to the basket, where his man struggled to recover. If Melo ever started setting real screens to give the handler space (especially if he’s running the play with Felton), it could open up an array of scoring looks for all involved; the handler has a lane to the basket, making defenses collapse and leaving shooters open, and Anthony could find himself being guarded by the handler’s defender — usually a point guard — due to a switch.

Bad shots were still prevalent here, and as great as 60% from the field is, it could have been better. Anthony would sometimes catch the ball without making an instant move — shooting or driving — and his defender would catch up. From this position, Anthony hoisted a good amount of contested shots that were uncalled for, and with a good chunk of time left on the shot clock — typically long jumpers on the wing or at the baseline, meaning an added risk of triggering a fast break. These were few and far between, however, and if Anthony could limit himself to putting up smart looks out of this play and resetting the offense when nothing presents itself as an efficient scoring opportunity, this play could become even more dangerous.

Only one of these super-efficient plays were used in the final two minutes of a close game. As it turns out, that one play ended up getting Melo a wide open three from the top of the key, a shot that would fall and bury Boston in Game 6 of the first round. The Knicks’ bland approach to tight games this past season drove many insane, why with better options available seemingly every time. The Knicks shot 38% from the field in the final five minutes of games where the scoring margin was five points or less. In the final minute, that number dropped to 31% from the field. Perhaps if, once in a blue moon, the Knicks ran a play other than an Anthony isolation on the wing (the blame is split between Coach Woodson and Melo himself, but I’ll write about this later), New York could come away with more crunch time victories.

Finally, this play is really tough for teams to defend. The 1.33 PPP coming out of Melo screens is a ludicrous number, making it unjustifiable that it was run just 2% of the time. I mean, really? Two percent? Meanwhile (and unsurprisingly), isolations make up 27% of Anthony’s offense, out of which he shoots a mere 40%.

Diversifying the offense a bit more by including this play as an every-game look would prove a big help for New York. For as cool as locking down the scoring title no doubt was, Anthony still shot under 45% from the field this season, while his eFG% barely cracked 50%.

Although I’ve often cited defense as the Knicks’ biggest problem, there are smaller fish to fry on offense as well. Far too often the Knicks still find themselves going stagnant, leading to bitter stretches of Anthony isolation after Anthony isolation, despite it never working out well and being ridiculously hard to watch. This hurt them a good amount come Playoffs time, and letting this happen again would mean another exit with which fans and the team would most definitely not be content.

This scheme highlighted above is not only a new look; it’s a monster for defenses to try and tame, and one that the Knicks should be looking to take advantage of more often come next season.

27 comments on “More Melo-As-Screener Plz

  1. SeeWhyDee77

    Good stuff! I never really noticed that. Well..I noticed Melo doesn’t set screens very well. But yea..I think Woodson should stay on him about those things. Imagine how hard the team will play consistently if they see their star doing the little things to make the team go more often

  2. SeeWhyDee77

    On another note..Machado is back on the market. DO NOT LET HIM GO THIS TIME GRUNNY!! That is all

  3. TMal

    Melo as a screener would be a nice change of pace look and Woody needs to get more versatile in his offensive sets. Plus the team trust factor is SO IMPORTANT, I would love to see the Knicks zip that ball around like the Spurs

  4. TMal

    SeeWhyDee77: On another note..Machado is back on the market. DO NOT LET HIM GO THIS TIME GRUNNY!! That is all

    I’m not hip whats Machado’s resume?

  5. SeeWhyDee77

    Went undrafted after putting up really good numbers at Iona. 3rd PG At Golden State last season. Maybe because he played in the MAAC is the reason he didn’t get drafted because he’s a really nice PG prospect. 2x all MAAC, one time MAAC POY. I don’t have any stats to add to it but I’m pretty sure there are other folks who have stats on him from college that follow this site. I feel like Grunwald should have added him last summer but Houston, then GS got to him

  6. ess-dog

    Great piece. More proof that D’Antoni had no idea how to use Melo.
    The only thing is, more screens for Melo makes Amare even more pointless. Why the hell did those two want to play together in the first place?

  7. KnickfaninNJ

    Rik Smits came out of the MAAC so it’s not impossible to get a quality NBA player out of that conference.

    Ess-dog, I don’t think the idea is to give more screens for Melo. Rather it’s to have Melo set screens instead.

  8. Keniman Shumpwalker

    TMal: I’m not hip whats Machado’s resume?

    His stats page from Iona. He really came on his last two seasons as a distributor but his TO% is a little troubling, especially considering the competition he typically faced. That said, I was all for picking him up last year when he went undrafted and wouldn’t mind if we kicked the tires now. I’m a little surprise he didn’t get any burn last year (21 minutes of garbage time with the Rockets).

  9. ess-dog

    KnickfaninNJ:
    Rik Smits came out of the MAAC so it’s not impossible to get a quality NBA player out of that conference.

    Ess-dog,I don’t think the idea is to give more screens for Melo. Rather it’s to have Melo set screens instead.

    Right I get that KfNJ. Perhaps I should say more screens FROM Melo, not for.

    This should be especially effective with Melo at the 4, so he can pull out a big. I would like to see a lot of this.

  10. KnickfaninNJ

    I agree he should set more screens. but I don’t understand why you think this will create a conflict for Amare. If he sets a screen for, say, the point guard then the opposing team is going to have a very hard time defending him and the point guard, protecting the paint and guarding Amare all at the same time.

  11. thenamestsam

    Strongly agree that this should be a bigger part of the offense, especially in crunch time. In their championship run Dallas wore teams out running pick and pops (and occasional rolls) with Terry/Barea and Dirk. Now obviously Melo isn’t as big as Dirk and he’s not quite as deadly of a shooter either, but the same general principal should apply. Teams are going to be very hesitant to help off Melo and give him wide open jumpers which means that if he sets solid picks the ball handler should be getting great looks time after time, either because his man goes under and yields the wide open jumper or because he goes over and lets the ball handler into the lane.

    A part of the problem may be that the Knicks don’t have a scoring point guard – teams are comfortable going under on Prigs and Felton and daring them to shoot jumpers, but I’d like to see the Knicks run some of this stuff with JR as the ball handler. JR is agile enough and a good enough ball-handler and passer that he and Melo should be devastating in the two-man game if they really work at it.

  12. TMal

    thenamestsam: Strongly agree that this should be a bigger part of the offense, especially in crunch time. In their championship run Dallas wore teams out running pick and pops (and occasional rolls) with Terry/Barea and Dirk. .

    Melo is my favorite player despite his flaws and how he frustrates me sometimes and I guess thats y I’ve never liked LeBron. I do begrudgingly acknowledge LeBron is probably the best in the game. Now back to the screening, I agree using Melo more BUT also maybe Bargnani can be used also since he was considered a poor man’s Dirk and I’m sure Bargs wants to prove he is not a bust.
    Thats y I wish Grun would have went after Nate Wolters being a taller(6’4) scoring point guard, he’d been perfect pick and pop guy IMHO

  13. EB

    They started using Melo out of the patented double picks the Knicks run. Do the numbers only count times he actually received the ball or everytime he setup for a screen?

  14. DRed

    56 attempts over two seasons is a pretty meaningless sample. I’m all for less iso-melo, though.

  15. EB

    Also I believe George Karl was aware of, and mentioned, the success Melo has on PnRs but he just refuses to run them. (In the statement he spoke more generally about the Nuggets, but the players loved running their “random” offense *cough* isoball.)

  16. Brian Cronin

    I’d love to see a MAAC player in the NBA again. My brother went to Manhattan so he still makes me watch a goodly amount of MAAC games.

  17. DRed

    In other news, guitar jimmy’s efforts get secure his permit for MSG in perpetuity have been denied. Just sell the team, asshole. Please.

  18. danvt

    EB: They started using Melo out of the patented double picks the Knicks run. Do the numbers only count times he actually received the ball or everytime he setup for a screen?

    Didn’t they run this play the first play of like every game last year?
    I agree the Knicks lacked creativity in crunch time last year. I remember JR winning a couple of games with shots of incredible difficulty.

  19. SeeWhyDee77

    I don’t think Melo realizes how deadly his presence as a screener would be. When left to choose in a screen and roll, defenses are gonna track Melo 99% of the time. Which would make whichever player that has the ball more effective. And like I said..when the other players see the star making those kind of sacrifices- the whole team plays more inspired. Melo has got to realize that his job is to be the best player..which goes beyond getting buckets. He can sacrifice a few shot attempts to make the game easier for everyone, himself included. Now..I’m happy with Melo as is..but this is something he can add to his game with relative ease and it will make him a better player

  20. bidiong

    As always as much as we come up with data and see ideas, we have to hope Woodson somehow gets his hand on this information, decides it’s something to use, then get Melo to buy in. I give Melo more credit as a team player than most so I think if he was told this is going to help him get easier shots and help his teammates he would be in to try it at the very least. But more than anything this off-season we need a smarter Woodson to developed.

  21. maxwell_3g

    SeeWhyDee77:
    On another note..Machado is back on the market. DO NOT LET HIM GO THIS TIME GRUNNY!! That is all

    ahhhhhh. the never ending Knickerblogger fascination with Machado. an overweight, slow, pg who was dropped by 2 teams already and has never played against elite competition. no thanks, i’ll take brown or murray

  22. SeeWhyDee77

    maxwell_3g: ahhhhhh.the never ending Knickerblogger fascination with Machado.an overweight, slow, pg who was dropped by 2 teams already and has never played against elite competition.no thanks, i’ll take brown or murray

    lol I am upset that we didn’t make a play for Ian Clark. Or Boobie Gibson yet.

  23. GoNyGoNYGo

    Great analysis.

    Personally, I’m tired of seeing Melo going iso while the rest of the team spreads out. essentially, it’s 1-on-5 with 4 Knicks just standing around. I’m not calling for a return to the D’Antoni approach, but mixing it up more is a must. I want to see everyone in motion.

  24. ruruland

    Melo as the screener is great, but how about more Melo as the primary pnr ballhandler?

    I believe Synergy recently tweeted that he has been the third most efficient pnr ballhandler the last two years on a very large sample.

    Secondly, the more you put Melo into high pnr, the better he sees the floor over the course of a game.

    Yes, 47 percent of Melo’s plays should not be in isolation or post-ups. We agree there.

    When Melo has a really good defender on him who doesn’t need a double-team, the Knicks should not be isolating him. Some of that is toning down Melo’s competitive nature to take on that challenge, some of that is getting into other sets, and some of that is other guys taking more initiative.

    Let’s also remember that a great deal of the high iso/post numbers stems from a lack of decent self-creators around Melo.

    A last second Melo iso is clearly preferable to a Felton pull-up, and Melo does not see the game through prism of efficiency metrics, where he is avoiding low efficiency situations or playing hot potato late in the clock like Durant, for example.

    Some of Melo’s value is his ability to have high ppp in really low efficiency situations. But he does function too often in this situations, sometimes out of choice and ease.

    But once again, Melo’s Synergy profile belies his net efficiency because of his shot distribution. Melo has a top 10 Synergy profile, with a bottom 10 shot distribution. Historically, only Kobe takes a comparable percentage of isolations and post-ups as Melo does.

Comments are closed.