Carmelo Anthony’s Scoring Evolution

Brian DiMenna

Tom Ley over at Deadspin wrote about Carmelo Anthony’s evolution on the offensive end of the floor. We’ve noted before that while Melo has drawn a lot of praise for his more willing passing this season, his assist rate is at a career low. Now, that particular statistical nugget largely fails to account for his deft passing out of double teams that has led to the ball swinging around the perimeter to open three-point shooters, something that has absolutely keyed the general free-wheeling awesomeness of the Knicks’ offense this season, but it does suggest there hasn’t been some kind of complete transformation in his game. He still likes to have the ball, and for good reason.

But I think Ley gets it exactly right about what has really changed about Anthony’s play, and it has a lot more to do with shot selection than anything else:

Anthony’s signature shot, in the past, has been the midrange jumper, usually on an isolation play after a series of jab steps. It was fun to watch him operate with that method at the elbow—shaking his defender enough to get a shot off, even though everyone knew the shot was coming—but it didn’t always lead to the most efficient scoring opportunity.

This year, Anthony has traded many of those mid-range jumpers for shots at the rim and three-pointers. With 5.6 three-point attempts per game, he’s averaging one whole attempt more than his previous career high, and he’s hitting 42 percent of them. He’s taking 6.8 shots at the rim per game, his highest level since coming to New York. His attempts in the 16-to-23-foot range—the low-efficiency part of the floor—are at a career low 4.6 per game.

Anthony’s past tendency to settle for the long mid-range jumper after a series of fakes, feints, pumps or whatever else he might dream up was always the most easily criticized part of his game. Now, I think this criticism — particularly last season — may have been applied somewhat unfairly — especially by me! — as the Knicks’ lack of quality point guard play and reliable secondary scorers largely left it up to Melo to try and create on his own.

But trading in the long twos for a career-high in three-point attempts has certainly boosted his efficiency, especially given that he’s currently shooting a fairly outrageous 46% from deep. Again, I’m sort of inclined to the idea that there’s less new about Melo’s game than better teammates and more wins, but this minor change of approach has no doubt been part of the reason he’s got pretty much the whole Tri-State area chanting “M-V-P” basically everywhere he goes, “Seriously, guys, I’m just trying to get some coffee.”

“M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!”.

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