The New York Knicks have a new President of Basketball Operations in Phil Jackson, a new Head Coach in Derek Fischer and new faces like Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert to replace the likes of Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. The Knicks have former Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith and second year shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. returning to the squad and allegedly this team will be running the famed “Triangle” offense that saw the Chicago Bulls win six NBA Championships and five championships for the Los Angeles Lakers.
They also have the heavily criticized NBA Superstar Carmelo Anthony returning to the fold to hopefully lead this team to their first Championship since the 1972-1973 Knicks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers.
Anthony is one of those “damned if he does damned if he doesn’t” type of athletes but there two major criticisms of Anthony that are not only legitimate but I think they go hand in hand. They would be;
1). That a Carmelo Anthony led team has never reached an NBA Final and;
2). That Carmelo Anthony doesn’t pass the ball and is essentially a “ball stopper”.
“Ball Stopper”, “ball hog” and not a “team player” are terms frequently associated with Anthony; in fact his hero Bernard King leveled a similar critique of Anthony on Twitter in 2013. Several other past NBA greats have made similar statements so this is nothing new. Let’s take a look and see if Kings comment made any inroads with the man they simply call “Melo”.
In 2013-2014 Anthony had 242 assists which was by far the most of his Knicks career. He also averaged 40.7 passes per game while averaging 3.1 assists per game (APG) out of 6.3 assist opportunities per game. I suppose one could blame the low assist average on the fact that his teammates didn’t shoot the ball all that particularly well in 2013-2014 but still that number is low compared to small forwards LeBron James (6.4), Kevin Durant (5.5), Gordon Hayward (5.2), Nicolas Batum (5.1) ,Chandler Parsons (4.0) and others.
Another statistic I like to use is “points created by assists” and in this category Anthony registered 7.8 per game and 9.6 per 48 minutes. His counterparts James (15.3, 19.4), Durant (12.8, 15.8), Batum (12.0, 15.9), Hayward (12.4, 16.2) and Parsons (9.5, 12.0) all fared much better than Anthony but neither this nor his APG can be used solely to indict Anthony as there are other factors involved.
In the 2013-2014 season Anthony played 5570 possessions for the Knicks which was nearly 2000 more than Felton and Smith. During those possessions Anthony launched 1643 shots, Smith 693 with Felton finishing third jacking up 564 shots. The Knicks could count on Anthony to shoot in 29 percent of possessions involved whereas Smith shot 20 percent of possessions involved and Felton shot 16 percent of the time.
Anthony, Smith and Felton played together 1177 minutes in 2013-2014. Anthony shot the ball 627 times, Smith 441 and Felton 315. The assist numbers when the three were together on the floor had Felton at 9.8 per 100 possessions, Anthony 4.6 per 100 and Smith was at 4.8 per 100 possessions.
All the above makes teammate Iman Shumpert’s comments make sense when he said the following;
“If we move the ball better, everyone will get better,’’ Shumpert said. “The ball is sticking. It’s from frustration, guys wanting to do more.’’
Okay! We have enough information so I suppose it’s time to get around to deciding if Carmelo Anthony is a “ball stopper” and if this is a reason as to why he hasn’t led any NBA team he’s played on to a championship.
The answer is a resounding yes. The ball does stop with Anthony. He jacked up nearly 700 more shots than second leading scorer Smith and over 1000 more than Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. While he may be the Knicks leading scorer he doesn’t make his teammates better as we’ve witnessed with his 7.8 points created by assists stat. It’s all about Melo and he’ll even tell you that. In fact I’ll let him tell you himself.
“I feel like the shots I took I can make. Someone else might think differently,” said Anthony, who is playing with a protective wrapping on his injured left shoulder. “Those are shots I can make and I have been making. I’m going to keep shooting… We’ll be a much better team come tomorrow.”
Remember the quote above is from the playoffs in 2013. Anthony was true to his word as he launched up 200 more shots than in 2012-2013. He did play 10 more games but he didn’t shoot any less than he did in that 2013 season.
There you have it. Anthony will keep on shooting no matter how it affects the team. This is what he does and how he’s always done it. Triangle or no Triangle the Knicks really don’t have the scorers for him to play any differently. He’ll still take the majority of the shots and if they fall the Knicks might win and if they don’t the Knicks will probably lose anyway so what’s the difference if the ball gets stuck or not?
As far as Anthony’s ball hogging, ball stopping affecting the Knicks ability to win a championship is concerned you bet it does. It will be interesting to see who will want to come to the Big Apple and play with Anthony from the free agent class of 2014-2015. That’s when you’ll find out what the big names available think in regards to playing with a ball stopping ball hog like Carmelo Anthony.