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Thursday, August 24, 2006
Testing the Theory That Carmelo Anthony is a Lousy Defender

Synergy Sports lets you research just about anything to do with NBA basketball, and see actual video clips, sortable by a million categories. (The free consumer trial isn't happening right now, but you can see it in action on this video. And, although I may seem salesy about this, please know they're not paying me to promote Synergy, although they are giving me free access to their product.)

In short, it lets you test just about any theory, with video evidence. I tried it once looking at Jamaal Magloire's offense. Time to try it again.

In the last weeks a few different basketball people I respect have told me that they were thrilled to see Carmelo Anthony at least "trying" to play defense for Team USA. (He has been playing hard. I don't know if it's the boxing training or what, but the man has been 2000% effort all over the court this summer. As I've said before, I'm impressed. Maybe he's one of those guys who gets a few years into his career and then just suddenly starts to get it.)

But the bigger implication there, of course, is that Anthony's NBA defense has been pathetic. There aren't really good statistics, that I have seen, to demonstrate an individual player's defensive prowess. looks at points allowed when the player is on the court vs. when he isn't, which sort of encompasses that. Those numbers, in the case of Anthony, tell something of a story.

Using those numbers and my trusty calculator, I figured out that last season, opponents scored 6,134 points in the 2,938 minutes Anthony was on the floor, meaning 2.088 points per minute. In the 1,042 minutes he was on the bench, opponents scored 2,076 points, meaning 1.992 points per minute. That's approaching a 5% difference. I can already hear the APBRMetrics people making mincemeat of my crude measurements here. I acknowledge: this proves nothing. It might not even be science. But it's something.

So, I put the theory to the eye test. Synergy's analysis of defense isn't yet nearly as sophisticated as their offensive breakdowns. (They tell me next season that will be changing.) But still, I was able fire up ten or twelve possession per playoff game when Anthony played a key role on defense.

And I was amazed at what I saw. Right out the box, the first game I watched happened to be the one when Corey Maggette got super hot. It would be unfair to go into a lot of detail about how Carmelo Anthony looked in that situation.

So I watched all the available plays of Denver's five playoff games against the Clippers. Synergy only tracked defensive video at all starting in the playoffs, so it wouldn't be easy to go back much further. I figured this would be an unfair sample, because everyone plays hard defense in the playoffs, right? Here is what I found:

Maybe this off-season is his time to change all that. Hope so.