Is Carmelo Anthony or Tyson Chandler More Important to NY Knicks Success?

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterDecember 11, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09:  Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks is congratulated by teammate Carmelo Anthony #7 after Chandler dunked in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks on November 9, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Carmelo Anthony is New York's "superstar" and the guy who gets the lion's share of credit for Knicks success. If there is an MVP to be earned on this team, it will go to Anthony. 

To be sure, Anthony has been awesome this season. He's currently claiming a career-high with a 56.9 true shooting (shooting percentage that includes threes and free throws) as well as in PER (24.05). As you can see in the shot chart comparison below, he's made an important tweak to his game. What once were mid-range shots have become three-pointers. 

From 2011-2012: 

From this season:

Last year, 19.9 percent of Carmelo Anthony's shots were three-pointers. Right now, 27.3 percent of his shots are from deep. It's led to Anthony claiming the best efficiency of his life as he thriving on catch-and-shoot treys.

But, even with Anthony claiming the best efficiency of his life, he might not be at the level of an unsung teammate. While Melo's 56.9 percent true shooting is impressive, Tyson Chandler's 73.4 percent true shooting is downright historic. 

This is where it gets tricky. Tyson Chandler is far more efficient than Carmelo Anthony, but he accomplishes that efficiency in far fewer shot attempts. Anthony shoots 20.2 times per game, Chandler at 6.6. It's hard to figure out which guys hold more offensive value without getting into the thorny issue of how much taking a shot matters (i.e. the Dennis Rodman Hall of Fame question). 

One of my favorite basketball metrics is Win Shares per 48 minutes because it gives less weight to shooting a lot. By this measure, Tyson Chandler's 2011-2012 season (.220 win share average) is better than any in Patrick Ewing's past. His current .283 win share average far outpaces Anthony's .177 mark, and far outpaces the work of any center this season.  

I will swing the offensive battle between these two slightly in Carmelo Anthony's favor though, based on Melo's more frequent shooting, and his ability to play multiple positions. What I will not do is declare him a better player than Tyson Chandler. 

Though Tyson plays fewer minutes than Melo, he's become more invaluable, in my opinion. New York's strategy depends on their ability to space the floor offensively, while defending and rebounding on the other end.

Most teams struggle to accomplish this because they lack a center who rebounds and defends at Tyson Chandler's level. The Knicks can afford to play with four defensively questionable three-point shooters because Chandler can get an abnormally high number of rebounds, while also covering vast swaths of the floor on D. Without Tyson, New York's success becomes impossible. 

As you could see in their Melo-less blowout of Miami, the Knicks can play well without their superstar power forward. I doubt New York could accomplish much if Anthony missed a lot of time, but they possess the ability to hit threes and produce with Tyson Chandler plus shooters. 

Part of the reason for this is that Chandler is an excellent screener and an excellent roller. His speed allows him to get to picks faster than other big men. He also has a penchant for screening with his back and launching off the screened defender towards the rim (think pro wrestlers, using the ropes).

Carmelo Anthony benefits from the spread pick-and-roll, but Tyson Chandler is more essential to its design. Anthony deserves a lot of credit for his improved play, but Chandler helps enable that playing style to exist. For this reason, I believe that Chandler is the more valuable Knick right now.