ShotCaller: Shucking and Jiving


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Since my first prediction, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks have kept it moving: 4 games (2 wins!), membership into the illustrious 20,000 point club, and a blatant disregard for Halloween, teacher in-service days, and elections. That leaves us here, with a cross-town beef looming on Friday night versus the Brooklyn Nets.

So here’s my next #CalledShot:

During the 1st quarter of the New York Knicks sixth game of the year, against the Brooklyn Nets on November 7th, Carmelo Anthony is expected to take 6 shots; those shots are expected to occur within each of the red ovals.

Here’s where you ask: why do you focus so much on the first quarter?

Well, I’m glad you asked. The first quarter (for a starter) is arguably the most malleable opportunity for a player to mold and shape the direction of a game. It’s new, young, and impressionable. Once substitutions start happening, the game’s identity is changing from its original state, and becomes more volatile. The early decisions from a player in the first quarter are seemingly more driven by that players preferences (and tendencies exhibited from hundreds of games prior) than later in the game. So getting the first quarter activity ‘less wrong’ is a major step in predicting the rest of the game.

This is what I mean:

The above graph is number of first quarter shots for Melo since his first NBA game in 2003. Of his 794 regular season games, Melo takes 5-7 shots 55% of the time; he takes 3-9 shots 91% of the time. Despite some ebb and flow over time, his activity is normally distributed, statistically speaking:

Those five levels are some pretty clean breaks.

Further, by measuring game-to-game sequencing, some observable patterns begin to emerge:

Notably, a majority of the time (roughly 98% of games) Melo’s first quarter shot count will be within +/-5 shots of the previous game. The correlation (r-squared) for shot counts and next game’s difference is -0.657, a moderately strong negative relationship. I’ll take it.

At this point, here’s some basic rules of Melo’s first quarter shooting behavior over the course of his entire career:

  • Takes 2-10 shots per 1st quarter, per game
  • The next game will be within +/-5 shots compared to last game; most often within +/-3 shots
  • The next game will be within +/-2 ‘levels’ of shot volume compared to last game; most often within +/-1 level
  • As shots go up, the next game difference goes down. As shots go down, the next game difference goes up.
  • Said differently, low shot games are followed by high shot games, and vice versa.

So What?

Melo took 4 shots last game. During his career, Melo has taken exactly 4 1st quarter shots 96 times. The most frequently occurring shot count in the next game? Six, which falls beautifully within all the above rules. And there you have it.

One more time, in case you forgot…

Six shots. Here:

Simple, right? Let’s see what happens Friday night.

Data and photo support provided courtesy of,, and Darryl Blackport.