With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.
Today’s question: How will Carmelo Anthony fit into the triangle offense?
Last week, we posed the question above to a longtime scout for an Atlantic Division team.
His first impression was a positive one.
"I think he's skilled enough and I think he's smart enough. I think he'll fit very well."
But the same scout, who has been watching Anthony since his rookie year (2003-04), also has some reservations.
"He’s got to bring the whole package [to make the triangle work]. He’s gotta be a team player, he's got to cut harder and he's got to move the ball. He's going to have to do a lot of things that he isn’t known for doing."
This will be one of the more interesting subplots to the Knicks' 2014-15 season. How will Anthony fit into an offense predicated on ball and player movement?
Below, we'll take a look out how this scout views Carmelo and the triangle:
1. Post play: Anthony was the No. 2 scorer in the NBA last season. In 2012-13, he led the league in scoring. That's a lot of points. A significant portion of those points were scored with Anthony operating in the post. So it's worth wondering if Anthony will continue to get post touches in the triangle this season.
"There’s opportunities for him to get the ball in the post," the scout said. "There's opportunities for him to be in the pinch post and isolate. Or he can catch the ball high and play a two-man game."
Based on recent history, it would seem to be in the best interest of both the Knicks and Anthony to get him the ball in the post.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, Anthony shot 49 percent in the post last season. He averaged 1.017 points per play while operating in the post, which put him in the 89th percentile when compared to the rest of the league. He also scored at least one point (including free throws) on 51 percent of his post possessions. Not bad.
2. He's gotta run: When talking about Carmelo and the triangle, the scout we spoke with used Kobe Bryant's success in the offense as a reference point. The scout said Kobe's ability to excel in the triangle stemmed, in part, from a willingness to run hard enough to beat defenders to certain spots on the court.
"Kobe would just sometimes outrun the bigs so he would run right into the post and then the other players just had to follow suit and just get into other spots. Is Carmelo going to run and hustle and get into the post and make an effort to get in there first? That’s up to him," the scout said. "If he makes the effort, I think he’ll get those opportunities and he’ll just go to work."
It's hard to quantify just how hard Carmelo runs on the floor. Some scouts and observers believe that he doesn't run with maximum effort all of the time on the offensive end. Again, this is tough to quantify.
One player tracking metric measures the distance a player travels on the court and the speed at which he does it.
For what it's worth, Anthony's average speed on the court last season was 3.7 miles per hour, per the Player Tracking on NBA.com. Mike Dunleavy had the highest average speed among forwards at 4.5 miles per hour.
Anthony averaged three miles traveled on the court per game last season. Again, Dunleavy had the longest distance covered among forwards last year with 3.7 miles per game.
These numbers can be a bit misleading, though, because they measure the average speed of all movements (sprinting, jogging, standing, walking, backwards and forwards) by a player while on the court. So it's tough to draw definitive conclusions from those statistics.
3. Moving the ball: One of the tenets of triangle offense is movement. Both players and the ball should be in motion in order for things to work well.
The scout we spoke with wonders if Anthony can adapt his game to fit that approach.
"For them to have success, he's going to have to be a willing passer. That offense is predicated on spacing and ball movement and he can’t hold the ball like he has on previous occasions. So he’s got to pass the ball."
The feeling here is that Anthony's reputation as a ball stopper is a bit overblown. Again, this is tough to quantify.
But it's worth nothing that Carmelo had 6.3 "assist opportunities" per game last season. This is an interesting statistic because it's a measure of passes to a teammate in which that teammate attempts a shot. You acquire an "assist opportunity" if the shot attempted was one that, if made, would have resulted in the passer getting an assist.
Anthony had a strong number of "assist opportunities" last year.
Anthony's mark of 6.3 assist opportunities per game was 13th among forwards who played at least 30 minutes per game. Kevin Love posted 8.5 assist opportunities per game.
On the flip side, only 38.5 percent of Carmelo's field goals were assisted last season, a relatively low number.
And he had the ball for an average of 3.6 minutes per game, the 2nd highest mark among forwards who averaged at least 30 minutes per game, behind LeBron James.
So the statistics can paint a murky picture.
But no matter how you analyze Anthony's ball movement from last season, it's fair to assume that he'll have to be a bit more willing to pass this season for the triangle to be successful.
Anthony's success in the triangle is pivotal for the Knicks this season and in the future. He signed a five-year, $124 million contract with the Knicks in July. Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson are under contract for the life of Anthony's deal. So Anthony and the triangle will be intertwined for the foreseeable future.
But Anthony himself he pointed out last week, the success of the offense can't hinge solely on Melo.
"It's not about really me, it's about everybody else. If everybody's not on the same page in the triangle, then the triangle is not going to work," Carmelo said last Thursday. "So it's about everybody coming together, playing their role and doing what they have to do to make it work."
That's true. But as with most other things around the Knicks, it all starts with Melo.
Question: How do you think Carmelo Anthony will fit in the triangle offense?
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