Carmelo Anthony is one of the best scorers the league has seen, but along with his incredible knack for getting the orange ball through the orange cylinder, his career has always been maligned by the critics: “He’s a ball-stopper. He doesn’t pass. He’s never won anything. He’s a defensive liability. He’s selfish.”
Some of those are fair, some aren’t and some are halfway right. However, as he’s getting older and losing some of his physical prowess, he has some on-paper talent around him, and should he “lead” in a proper way, he could answer some of his critics this year if he even gets his New York Knicks to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Melo’s ceiling this year will not be measured by numbers but leadership, an experience he gained this year by being on the US Olympic team for the fourth time. Al Iannazzone wrote for Newsday about that experience:
Anthony has embraced the role as leader, following in the footsteps of Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant. Everyone associated with the U.S. team has talked about how Anthony is the unquestioned leader. He addressed the team before Olympic training camp began in Las Vegas and stressed how much work it will take to bring home the gold.
“My message to the guys was that this is not going to be easy,” Anthony said. “You can’t expect that because we’re the best players in the world, we’re going to win the gold medal. We should win the gold medal, but we have a lot of work to do.”
The Knicks have a diverse group of personalities, ranging from the young emerging star, Kristaps Porzingis, to former MVP Derrick Rose, to the effervescent Joakim Noah. Anthony’s job will be to channel all that personality from his teammates into wins while facilitating them to presenting the best version of themselves on the court.
Anthony’s numbers are in decline and have been for the last few years:
Injuries, age, the attrition of getting fouled 3,000 some odd times…all of that has a season-to-season impact. And now with him sharing the ball with Rose and Brandon Jennings, as well as the emerging Porzingis, it’s just a question of how many shots will be left for him? Last season, he had the third-lowest scoring output of his career. And this year he could fail to hit 20 for the first time in his life.
Anthony can score in a lot of ways, though, not on the scale he used to. He’s a beast posting up, where he totaled 340 points on .92 points per possession, landing him in the 74.4 percentile, according to Synergy stats at NBA.com. He’s deadly in catch-and-shoot situations, too, where he netted 327 points on a 52.1 effective field goal percentage, per SportVU tracking data. There were only five players in the league who notched 300 points on both catch-and-shoot and post-up situations; the other four were Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nikola Vucevic.
And of those, only Love and Dirk joined Anthony in notching 100 threes.
And when you put all that together, it results in a shot chart that looks like this — with very even scoring distribution all over the court:
Don’t just look at the colors here. Look at the distribution. No one area had more than 27.2 percent of his shots. And he attempted at least 16 from every one of them. That kind of ability opens opportunities for teammates and is a big part of the reason why Anthony still had the 17th-best Offensive Real Plus-Minus last year, even if his scoring was down.
Defensively, he was better last year with a DRPM of -0.73, which beats the 2014-15 figure of -2.08. That could improve more if Noah can stay healthy.
While Anthony was observably more “interested” in defense last year, with his lost mobility due to injuries and age, he’s never going to be a good defender. Now it’s a matter of hiding him as best as possible. With Noah and Porzingis behind him, and Courtney Lee manning the other wing spot, that’s feasible. Though, Derrick Rose will need some monitoring as well. Essentially, though, his defense is a mild liability when you factor in his impact on offense.