As Laker fans, we all know what it’s like to have a dominant perimeter scorer who consistently takes 20 shots per game. He’ll score 30 points, so we don’t mind, and he’s a joy to watch as it is. Carmelo Anthony is the New York Knicks version of Kobe Bryant. He led the league in field goal attempts per game and the Knicks rode him to the 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
But in the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics, he took ball dominance and isolations to a whole different level–a level that will have the Knicks in trouble when they take on the Indiana Pacers and the best defense in the eastern conference in the second round.
At the beginning of the playoffs, when asked what had changed for Carmelo Anthony this season, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said that Carmelo “learned to trust his teammates”. He went on to say that in past seasons Carmelo has “[thought] that he could beat a team himself”. In the playoffs, Carmelo has deterred from this new found style of play.
One of the best ways to tell whether a player prefers to shoot or pass is to look at the relationship between their field goal attempts per game.
As you can tell, there is a moderately strong linear relationship between field goal attempts per game and assists per game. As FGA per game increases, AST per game also tends to increase. The blue dots represent the top 68 players this season in minutes per game. The yellow dots are Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant. They fall along the trend just like the rest of the NBA.
Carmelo Anthony, however, does not.
The red dot is Carmelo Anthony in the regular season. The green dot is Carmelo Anthony in the postseason. He’s an outlier in the data. Despite shooting an inordinate number of shots, he still hardly ever finds his teammates ever for assists.
Carmelo Anthony has not been getting his teammates involved enough. Time after time in the Celtics series, Carmelo took the ball and waved away his teammates to go one-on-one with one of the Celtics defenders (usually Jeff Green).
By the time that the series was over, he had run 88 isolations, according to MySynergySports.The entire Celtics team ran 76 isolations in that series!
The biggest thing about the iso is that it’s a great play if the star has the ball and clearly outmatches the defender on him. Much too often in that series, this was not the case.
Here are some different isolations for Melo throughout the series. Ones outlined by red resulted in a missed basket while ones outlined in green resulted in a make. You can enlarge the photo by clicking on it to view any of the plays closer.
We’ll begin with the top-left play. Carmelo Anthony is isolated at the left wing with Jeff Green guarding him in the waning seconds of a close game that could have given the Knicks a sweep.
The Knicks spacing on this isolation is actually really good. There is plenty of room behind Green for Melo to penetrate the lane and either get a lay-up or get himself to the free throw line. Instead, he throws up a three-pointer that misses, essentially bailing out the Celtics defense.
The top-right shows Carmelo taking a mid-range jumper over the contested arm of Brandon Bass. With the shot clock running down, Celtics big men clogging up the lane, and no-one really wide open to pass to, Anthony really had no great option.
This isn’t as much on Anthony as some of the others, but it does reveal one of the greatest flaws of the isolation. The stagnant ball movement in this play often results in nothing good happening and a field goal attempt being forced at the end. In hind sight, the only thing Anthony may have been able to do is put a better move on Bass to get himself more open for the shot that he’d inevitably need to take.
Let’s look at the middle and bottom left ones. Both of them start up the same way. Melo has the ball at the top of the key and attacks the basket through the middle of the lane.
In the middle-left play, Carmelo doesn’t look to make a pass. His mind was made and he was going to attempt a lay-up the whole way. That play resulted in a charge, with Tyson Chandler waiting wide open under the basket for a pass that never came.
In the bottom-left play, almost the same exact thing happens. In this one, however, Melo does dish it to Chandler for an easy dunk.
Also, notice that this assist for Anthony came right in the beginning of the game. This was a theme throughout the series. More than half of his assists came in the first quarter. He seemed to sway away from this play-making mindset as the games developed.
The middle-right play is another example of Anthony penetrating the basket unsuccessfully. As he began to get to the hoop, the Celtics collapsed down on him, leaving JR Smith and Iman Shumpert open for threes.
Anthony didn’t kick out to a shooter, and instead got his lay-in attempt blocked. This is a major reason why he shot just 41 percent from inside the restricted area in the series, 16 percent worse than league average.
Lastly, the bottom-right play is a perfect example of what a GOOD isolation is for Carmelo Anthony. Jason Kidd floats a pass to him on the right baseline. Immediately after catching that pass, Anthony turns and fires an and-one jumper over the much shorter Courtney Lee.
He didn’t waste time with jab steps and pump fakes. Many times, that stuff just allows the defender more time to get set and contest a shot. This is Anthony’s favorite shot and he drains it.
The New York Knicks were able to hold off the Boston Celtics and win their first round series, but it certainly wasn’t because of their offense. They averaged just 87.7 points per game and shot just 41.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three – a far cry from their regular season numbers of 100.0 points per game, 44.8 percent from the field, and 37.6 percent beyond the arc.
They ultimately owe that series victory to the work done by Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin on the defensive end of the court.
Carmelo Anthony is going to need to be a better decision maker if the Knicks expect to get past the Indiana Pacers.
You can follow Skyler Gilbert on twitter at @SkylerJGilbert. Also, be sure to follow us on twitter at @TheLakeShowLife and LIKE our Facebook page as well.