Harris DeckerI’m a stats guy. SNY’s Moke Hamilton and I debate it constantly. Can you pick a roster based on stats? Does the eyeball test always outweigh the stats test? We can debate these things to the ends of the earth but I’ll always be the way I am. I’m moneyball. I’m all about on base percentage in baseball (a leading stat for moneyball general managers). I love my stats and love breaking them down.
Carmelo Anthony has gotten a bad wrap for being a shoot first, pass second type of player. I wouldn’t contend that this isn’t the case. Anthony is a scorer. He’s not LeBron James. But, his assist numbers have been distorted by a number of things outside of his control.
SportsVU is a company that tracks things that ESPN, Yahoo and the like do not track. They track statistics that are far deeper and more telling than those you’d get from a box score. The statistic that stood out to me was one they call “Assist Opportunities Per Game.” They define this as “Passes by a player to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot and if made would be an assist.”
Of course this is abstract. It’s measuring something that the NBA has never measured and doing it in a very specific manner. Still, these stats exist and are accurate according to SportsVU. Assist Opportunities Per Game can measure how good a passer is on a bad team. After all, it’s not Anthony’s fault if Iman Shumpert misses a shot. It says more about the quality of the team around the player than the player himself.
According to SportsVU, Anthony has registered 6.5 assist opportunities per game in 2013, averaging just 2.8 assists overall. So that means in every game, there are up to 4 shots that if converted, would lead to a greater assist total for Anthony. The Knicks are converting 43% of Anthony’s passes into shots. If we compare that number to the gold standard of Lebron James, the numbers are staggering. The Heat convert 57% of James’ passes into baskets.
What does it all mean? Is it that James is making better passes than Anthony? Maybe. Is it that Ray Allen, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh convert more opportunities than J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler? Maybe. What it does mean is that Anthony does try to get his teammates involved. He’s always going to be a score first type of player but if the Knicks start converting more opportunities, Anthony could see a definite spike in his assist numbers.