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LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony: Who Has Advantage in Head-to-Head Matchup?

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LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony: Who Has Advantage in Head-to-Head Matchup?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When the Miami Heat take on the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden tonight, it will be the 21st matchup between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the first and third picks of the 2003 NBA draft and two of the premier small forwards of our generation.

They have had some legendary head-to-head matchups in the past, but this is the first time that they will be locking up against one another as power forwards. 

Before we get into who has the advantage as their new position, let's look at what they've done against one another in their careers so far (via basketball-reference.com). 

Here's the regular season. 

Player

G

W

L

FG%

3P%

FT%

TRB 

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Carmelo Anthony

15

9

6

.443

.333

.755

6.0

2.4

0.9

0.8

23.0

LeBron James

15

6

9

.462

.228

.707

7.5

7.3

1.9

0.7

25.1

James has the advantage, pretty much across the board in all but one important category: wins and losses. While James has dominated the stat line, Anthony has three more wins. 

Here is the postseason comparison. 

Player

G

W

L

FG%

3P%

FT%

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

LeBron James

5

4

1

.478

.350

.807

6.2

5.6

2.2

0.2

27.8

Carmelo Anthony

5

1

4

.419

.222

.756

8.2

2.2

1.2

0.2

27.8

While the stats are closer, James still has the edge statistically. They're tied in points but it's worth mentioning that Anthony averaged over six more shots per game to reach that total. 

Also, James has the wins this time around.

If you look at the 20 games they have played in sum, they each have won 10, which makes this the best of 21. So which of them will win the power forward battle in the head-to-head matchup? Could there be a surprise in store?

Anthony excelled as a power forward last year, according to 82games.com. When he was playing the 4, he had a player efficiency rating of 29.5 and his opponents were held to 12.8, a dominant difference of 16.7. 

That's nothing like what James did at the position, though. When he was a power forward he had a PER of 37.1 while his opponents were held to 14.8, a difference of 22.3. From the numbers alone, you would conclude that James has the clear edge. 

However, what if the game shifts to the post? Based on synergy data, the post game would favor Anthony. 

The pair were fairly even on post-up plays, as Anthony averaged .95 points per play to James' .94. On defense, however, Anthony was much more successful.

James defended on 75 such plays, and his opponents averaged .92 points per play, shooting 50 percent from the field and making 31 of 62 field goals. 

When Anthony defended in the post, his opponents only managed a meager .52 points per play and scored just 11 field goals in 37 attempts on 61 plays. In just 14 fewer plays, Anthony gave up 20 fewer field goals. 

Here's LeBron James going up against Carmelo Anthony. 

Here's Carmelo Anthony taking on LeBron James. 

Notice any difference?

While I expect that James' Heat will win the contest, the new role of these stars should favor Anthony.

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