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Here's Proof That NY Knicks Must Diversify from Carmelo-Centric Attack

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 09 Nov 2015

Since he arrived in February 2011, the New York Knicks have rarely wonwhen Carmelo Anthony struggles with his shot.The 2015-16 season has seen Carmelo struggle with his shot even more than usual. In seven games, he's shooting a career-low 37.1 percent from the field. He's shot below 40 percent during five of the seven games (and exactly 40 percent in the win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday), with the Knicks going 1-4 in those contests.Given those struggles, the question is worth asking: What, if anything, do Anthony and the Knicks do differently in games where he struggles with his shot'Since he got to New York, there have been 88 games where Carmelo has shot worse than 40 percent from the field. The Knicks have a record of just 34-54 in those 88 games. That 0.386 winning percentage is the equivalent of a 31.7-win season.Conversely, when Melo has shot 40 percent from the field or better, New York's record is 104-91. That's a 0.533 winning percentage, the equivalent of a 43.7-win campaign.Yes, Anthony's shooting has been such a bellwether for the team's success that its winning percentage has swung by 0.147 (the equivalent of 12 games over an 82-game season) based on whether he had a particularly poor night from the field.The PerceptionHead coach Derek Fisher had this to say about how the team should approach the offense on those nights:"Offense requires all five guys. Obviously, Carmelo is our main guythe guy that we play through most, who has the most shot attempts each night. There are nights where either the ball is going in or not, for different reasons. You don't have to rely on him. "I think that's what we're finding as we go through this as a team, is that you're not reliant on any one guy to have a good offensive night to win. If you do the things that we practice, we'll be able to get high-percentage shots. It takes the other guys to get some opportunities to loosen the defense up around your main guy as well. We'll learn how to do that as we continue to grow as a team."Robin Lopez, one of the players who spends the most time sharing the floor with Anthony, took some of the responsibility on himself."Any time I step on the floor, my goal is to make guys better and get guys open shots," Lopez said. Whether that's by setting a good screen or making himself available for dump-off passes, he said that his offensive job essentially boils down to making things easier for everyone else on the court.Since it is oftentimes his defender who shades a step toward Anthony to cut off his path to the basket, Lopez knows his offensive role becomes of greater import on those plays."In that situation, I become kind of a point guard. I either try to get a look at the rim or swing the ball [and keep the offense moving]."Backup guard Langston Gallowaywhose 380 minutes alongside Anthony are more than anyone but starter Jose Calderonsince last seasonsaid it's less a matter of helping Anthony get goingor making a point of passing the ball elsewhere to loosen up the defense for him than simply trusting the offense."He's a superstar," Galloway said. "Those shots are gonna start going in. He's getting his rhythm back. We really can't worry about going somewhere else with it; we just have to keep running our offense and getting better from there."For Anthony's part, he said his mindset during games where his shot isn't going down involves being more aggressive off the dribble."Get to the free-throw line," he said of his strategy when his shot is off. "Try to get in the paint. Drive the ball to the basket. Hope and wish that the referees call [a foul]."Carmelo, though, also made sure to note he's unlikely to become a passive participant in the offense, declining to take shots that he normally would just because they're not going down in that particular game."I don't think I can take my foot off the pedal, to be honest with you."The RealityUnsurprisingly, the latter sentiment holds 100 percent true. Carmelo stays on the pedal regardless of whether he's shooting well, at least in terms of shot attempts.In the 195 games where he's shot 40 percent from the field or better with the Knicks, Carmelo has attempted 20.73 shots per 36 minutes (we're normalizing minutes here to give a better idea of the exact rate at which he shoots; a difference in minutes could throw off the numbers). In the 88 games where he's shot below 40 percent, Carmelo has attempted 20.18 shots per 36 minutes. That's a difference of just 0.55 attempts per 36.Basically, he shoots about 2.7 percent less often in games where he's struggling. The difference is practically negligible:FG%FGA/366 FT10 FT10 FT3PT3PTUnder 40%20.1838.2%36.7%34.2%23.6%Over 40%20.7357.1%52.8%48.6%42.9%In those "worse than 40 percent" games, there wasn't any particular area where he struggled more than others. He failed to connect across the board.Close to the rim, his field-goal percentage in those games was 18.9 percent worse than in games where he shot above 40 percent overall. On short jumpers between six and 10 feet from the rim, his percentage was 16.1 percent worse. Between 10 feet and the three-point line, it was 14.4 percent worse. And from beyond the arc, it was 19.3 percent worse.But what of Anthony's contention that he tries to get to the basket and the free-throw line more often when he's struggling with his shot' How accurate is that'Thanks to some number-crunching (via NBA.com's game logs) done by Nylon Calculus editor Seth Partnow, we can say for certain that a slightly larger share of his attempts have come close to the basket in those games:FG%FGA/366 FT10 FT10 FT3PT3PTUnder 40%20.1831.7%4.0%41.3%23.0%Over 40%20.7327.2%4.1%43.5%25.2%As you can see, Anthony shot about 4.5 percent more oftenwithin six feet of the rimduring games where he hit less than 40 percent from the field.Most of those shots, during games where he's shot above 40 percent, became jumpers. That extra 4.5 percent was split pretty evenly among mid-range jumpers between 10 feet and the three-point line and three-point shots.There was not, however, an increase in free-throw attempts during those games. Anthony averaged6.75 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes in games where he shot less than 40 percent compared to 6.94 in games where he shot 40 percent or better. That difference (0.19 attempts per 36 minutes), much like the difference in field-goal attempts per 36 minutes, is essentially negligible.Considering Anthony's struggles so far this year, along with his futile attempts to get to the line more often in games such as these in the past, it would behoove the Knicks to get their other players more involved to loosen up the court and help him get freer looks.Between rookie Kristaps Porzingis, second-year man Galloway and the (hopefully for New York's case) soon-to-return Arron Afflalo, there appear to be at least a few semi-reliable options on the roster through whom the Knicks can generate better offense than Anthony forcing contested looks.After the team's win over the Lakers on Sunday, Anthony said he's willing to try that approach.I know the guys that I have on this team, he said, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Its just me trusting those guys out there and believing in those guys and letting them know Im relying on them.With his advancing age (Anthony is now 31 years old) and the miles on his legs (this is his 13th NBA season), allowing himself to cede some of the burdenparticularly in games where he's already strugglingshould help him in the long run. Even it requires a drastic change in his typical approach, Melo should be open to it.All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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