It’s been a few weeks since I blogged about the possibility of the Knicks getting ‘Melo (here, if you missed it or want to read it again). Well, the guys on local sports radio are still talking about it (and so are the guys on the podcasts I listen to), so I might as well keep going.
Add him, Knicks. Like, yesterday.
From the people who don’t think it makes sense for the Knicks to acquire him, I hear two general themes: (1) that he isn’t “efficient” on offense, and (2) that he isn’t very good on defense. I’ll address them in turn.
He Isn’t “Efficient” On Offense: As the argument goes, Carmelo takes a bunch of bad shots, and is a “ball-stopper.” The guys who make this argument back it up with some new-age statistics. I’d respond with some statistics of my own, but, in my experience, people typically aren’t interested in reading nerds argue about basketball statistics and, well, I’m having enough trouble recruiting readers as it is. So I’ll stay away from a heavy statistical argument.
Here’s the deal: the Nuggets were 17-65 the season before Carmelo arrived. Now, they’re consistently one of the top-10 offensive teams in the league, as measured by total points scored. (Last year – #3; 2008-09 – #6) During each of those seasons, Carmelo was their leading scorer.
So… either Carmelo is “efficient” on offense, or Nene and the Birdman have been operating at a level of “efficiency” never seen before, in order to make up for his deficiencies. I don’t need complicated statistics to tell me which of those two things has been going on in Denver.
He Isn’t Very Good On Defense: Some Knicks fans believe that Carmelo, on the defensive end, represents a significant dropoff from Wilson Chandler. To hear them talk about it, you’d think that Wilson Chandler plays D like Scottie Pippen, and Carmelo gets all of his points by cherry-picking.
Talking about defense is tricky, for at least two reasons: (1) it’s harder to measure statistically than offense, and (2) even when watching a game, it’s easier to identify good offense than good defense – the difference between “good defense” and “bad defense” on a given possession can be imperceptible to a casual observer, like, for example, a good defender getting his hand within 2 inches of a shot and a bad defender getting within 4 inches of a shot.
Frankly, I haven’t sat down with hours of video comparing Carmelo and Wilson Chandler reacting on defense in similar situations. So, maybe I’m just missing something. But I’ve seen enough of Wilson Chandler to know that he’s no Scottie Pippen, and I’ve seen enough of Carmelo to know that, whatever his defensive shortcomings may be, he’s spent his entire NBA career as the best player on a playoff team. (And he won the national championship during his only year at Syracuse.) If he’s not playing any defense, opposing coaches are doing a pretty lousy job taking advantage of that.
And the statistics, for what they’re worth, undermine the argument that Chandler is a significantly better defender than Carmelo. Chandler, for his career, averages .7 steals per game, .9 blocks per game, and 5.3 rebounds per game. (As my coach always said, rebounding is a part of defense, because getting a rebound takes an opportunity away from the other team to score.) Carmelo, for his career, averages 1.1 steals per game, .5 blocks per game, and 6.3 rebounds per game. Consider that Carmelo plays more minutes per game, and it’s about a statistical wash.
Yes, I understand that the Knicks would be giving up more than just Wilson Chandler, but Chandler, from what I’m hearing, would be the main piece. Landry Fields is good, and draft picks are nice to have, but those things shouldn’t hold up a trade for Carmelo Anthony.
At bottom, there are two fundamental reasons to get Carmelo: the first is that he’s one of only a handful of players in the league – there are, what, 10 of them? – with a track record of consistently being the primary scorer on a high-scoring offense. Wilson Chandler… not so much. The second is that, when your team has Mike D’Antoni as its coach and Amar’e Stoudamire as its big man, nobody’s going to confuse you for the Bad Boy Pistons on the defensive end. Your formula is to score a whole bunch o’ points, and play just enough defense to hold your opponents to about 105 points per game. Carmelo fits — he improves the team on offense, and, even if he does nothing else on D, his offensive prowess provides the Knicks with the luxury of plugging defensive-minded players like Turiaf into the lineup for more minutes.
Make the trade, Knicks.