Advanced stats over hero ball, in a rout

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
12:51
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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In today's New York Times, Howard Beck digs deep into something Royce Webb has been pointing out since before Carmelo Anthony even became a Knick: Carmelo Anthony is no cure-all for what ails the Knicks.

Beck writes:
Anthony is breaking plays and demanding the ball in isolation, then snapping at teammates when they fail to get it to him. It happened late Monday, when Anthony called for the ball in the post, then smacked his hands in anger after Landry Fields went elsewhere. More often, Anthony saves the criticism for more private moments, on the bench or in the locker room.

Anthony wants the Knicks to play through him, as every team has throughout his career. He is, by is own admission, uncomfortable in an offense in which he is not the primary ball-handler. That role is now capably filled by Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis.

“He wants 20 shots a game,” a person with ties to another Knicks player said of Anthony. “He has had a scorer’s mentality his whole life.” ...

The fact is, Anthony is not performing at a level that warrants more shots or self-indulgent play. He is shooting a career-low 40 percent from the field. The Knicks are 2-11 this season when he has 20 or more attempts.

For the past 10 games, the Knicks have been demonstrably worse when Anthony plays. With Anthony on the court, the Knicks are scoring at a rate of 97.7 points per 100 possessions. When he is on the bench, that rating soars to 109.8.

The contrast is just as sharp on defense: the Knicks give up 107.1 points per 100 possessions with Anthony on the court, 95.1 with Anthony on the bench. His personal differential, a minus-9.4 rating, is the worst on the team in that 10-game stretch.

Important to point out here is that this is not evidence Anthony is a bad player. It is, instead, evidence that getting the ball to one guy is not nearly as effective as getting the ball to the guy with the easiest shot. That's what Mike D'Antoni's offense can get you, and that's what you don't get when the defense can load up on one go-to scorer.

It's also a changing game. Thanks to Tom Thibodeau and the like, NBA defenses are very good at putting a ton of pressure on the side of the floor with the ball. So being a solo warrior on offense is tougher than ever. The antidote is creating space and moving the ball to the open guy, which the Knicks did nicely while Anthony was away. And they could do it with him in the game, too, but it would take trying some new things, which is hard for any of us.

Henry Abbott | email

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