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.

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.