Is Carmelo Anthony a Better Pure Scorer Than Kevin Durant?
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That's by no means meant to be disrespectful to Anthony, who is in the midst of one of the most dominant seasons of his stellar career. He is scoring as efficiently as he ever has, and it has propelled him to second in the NBA with 29.3 points per game.
In a season when the New York Knicks are banged up and struggling on the defensive end, Anthony's output has been as crucial as ever.
Though J.R. Smith has stepped up and Tyson Chandler is a high-percentage threat, Melo has been the obvious focal point of the Knicks' offense. Benefiting off of New York's much-improved spacing and his fortuitous move to the power forward position, Anthony has powered the Knicks to 109.6 points per 100 possessions, also good for second in the league.
However, the Oklahoma City Thunder are first in offensive efficiency, and Kevin Durant is right behind Melo with 28.2 points per game.
While Melo's explosive season might be garnering more media attention, Durant has delivered a much more buzz-worthy performance without nearly as much hype.
The Case for Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has expanded his game during the 2012-13 season.
The clearest example of Melo's development is from beyond the arc. His 6.2 long-range attempts per game are easily a career high, and his .435 three-point field goal percentage is also a personal best. That has boosted his shooting percentage to .477, his highest mark since 2007-08.
This newfound shooting prowess is not a fluke, yet Anthony hasn't become quote-unquote "better" at hitting threes. Rather, he has become smarter in terms of shot selection.
Though few of his threes have been so unusual, the set-up for this circus play has become more of the norm for Melo.
Due to his tendencies to stop the ball and create off the dribble, Anthony has never been much of a catch-and-shoot guy from beyond the arc. This season, he is taking advantage of the Knicks' great ball movement on the perimeter, spotting up and coming off screens to get cleaner shot attempts.
In the above play against the Brooklyn Nets, Tyson Chandler picks Gerald Wallace on the inbound, allowing Anthony to get open behind the three-point line. That produced a wide-open look for Melo to turn and shoot.
With just 0.7 seconds on the shot clock, though, Melo didn't have time to set his feet, rise and fire. That's where his natural ability as a shooter comes in handy. He is scoring more efficiently because he is taking less tough shots, but he can still make them when he has to.
Anthony's three-point shooting is a nightmare for opponents, who were having enough trouble defending him off the dribble. He's too strong for just about any wing to stop and too quick for a big man to keep up with him.
With Melo primarily playing power forward this season, that conundrum has only become tougher to figure out. Tack the three-point shooting onto that, and he's nearly impossible to stop.
The Case for Durant
Kevin Durant cannot match Melo's physicality, but he is more agile than 6'9."
Just look at how he abuses DeMar DeRozan in this clip.
Even though he is so tall and has such long arms, Durant is surprisingly quick and dexterous. He beats the smaller DeRozan with ease, then shows impressive body control as he splits two defenders and finishes at the hoop.
Considering he's the best jump shooter in the NBA, it's hardly fair that Durant can get to the rim so well.
This season, Durant has shot .518 from the field, .418 from three-point range and .903 from the free-throw line. If he keeps up those rates, he will join one of the most exclusive groups in league history.
Only five NBA players have ever qualified for the 50-40-90 Club: Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash (four times). Of those guys, only Bird has scored as much as Durant has this season while hitting such a high percentage of his shots.
That's the kind of company Durant is in. He's having one of the most all-around efficient shooting seasons ever.
It helps that Durant's jumper is so difficult to block. Not only can he see over any defender, he has such a high release that no one can get up high enough to contest it. If Durant's game didn't already inspire Bird comparisons, his jump shot certainly would.
He can convert at the rim, he's automatic from the line, he can hit from anywhere on the court and nobody can stop him. There are more athletic scorers than Kevin Durant, but no one on the planet is more technically sound.
There's a great case to be made for each player, but the argument for Kevin Durant is just a little bit stronger.
Sure, you can say that Durant gets better looks because he plays with Russell Westbrook. However, Melo gets a similar boost from Jason Kidd and company whipping the ball around the perimeter and finding him for open shots.
Who is the better pure scorer?
As unstoppable as Carmelo Anthony has been this season, he is still prone to subpar shot choices, and more physical wings have the ability to contain him.
With his height and mechanics, there's hardly a poor shot on the floor for Durant, and there isn't a player around built to stop him. He's quietly become one of the most efficient scorers of all time.
As great as Melo has been this season, he just can't match that.
Stats accurate as of Jan. 8, 2013.
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