The Alignment of Carmelo AnthonyApr 19
Carmelo Anthony has been in the news a lot lately. He has been carrying the banged-up Knicks (figuratively) into the playoffs. In his last ten games he is averaging 31 points and 8 rebounds. He is also shooting over 50% during this stretch, which is unusual for him; he has been a sub-45% shooter most of the year. He has been the undisputed MVP of April (in my house at least).
From a spatial perspective, Carmelo has one of the most interesting, most asymmetric shot charts in the league. The chart below reveals his most common shot locations. Right away you can see 1) he is much much more active on his right than he is on his left, and 2) he shoots a ton in the midrange.
Carmelo is also a very “aligned” player in the sense that his most active areas are also his most efficient areas. In other words, he does not shoot much from his least efficient areas. He’s awful from the top of the arc, but he doesn’t shoot much there*. Relative to an average player, he is best on the right side of the court off the elbows (he is 5% above league average) and from the wingish 3-point area (he is 8% above league average); he is also extremely active in these regions.
*He did make 3 of 3 from this area last night, but that is uncommon.
This provokes a larger question: how can we quantify usage efficiency? In other words, how can we measure how well a player or a team’s shots correspond with their own spatial strengths? Every player, lineup, and team in the NBA has unique spatial strengths and weaknesses. Teams need to not only design sets to get open looks, but they should also design sets to get the right players the right looks in the right places. In this sense the Knicks have done pretty well with Carmelo Anthony:
Overall as a shooter, Carmelo is not as good as Kevin Durant (scroll down 2 posts), but who is? He is not as potent near the rim as other elite forwards; his 55% line (below) is surprisingly close to the basket (Durant is 70+% in the same zone). Similarly, when we look at other all-star forwards like Durant, we don’t see nearly as much 30-35% territory inside the arc; Melo has a lot of that inlcuding a decent portion of the paint.
The good news for Knicks fans is that there are few midrange scorers in the league as effective as Carmelo. His shooting tendencies are aligned with his efficiencies better than almost anyone I’ve seen. For example, if you look at his most common 3-point shooting location or his common midrange shot sites, they’re right where they should be; this is what I mean by alignment:
Melo is a great individual scorer who is playing his best right now; he’s getting his shots, and he’s making his shots. “He’s playing unbelievable right now,” center Tyson Chandler said. “He’s playing, if not the best, definitely in the tops right now, as far as individual basketball.” He is very good at “individual basketball,” but it remains to be seen if this kind of play will translate well in the playoffs. It will be fun to find out.