Is Carmelo Anthony the Most Disrespected Superstar in the NBA?

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

"I don't get no respect!"

Rodney Dangerfield made that catchphrase famous, but Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks could just as easily utter those words.

Since coming into the league as the No. 3 pick in the famed 2003 draft, most fans have considered him a superstar-caliber player largely based on his scoring ability.

But it wasn't long ago that his "superstar" label came into question from a number of advanced analytics advocates.

One thing that hasn't often been doubted is Anthony's scoring ability. Beyond Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and perhaps Paul Pierce, there isn't a player in the league who can pour in contested buckets like Anthony.

Just look at his performance on Jan. 27 against the Atlanta Hawks, where he matched the Knicks' franchise record by draining a career-high nine three-pointers en route to a 106-104 victory.

The Knicks needed every one of Anthony's 42 points that night, including a late go-ahead three-point play with 12 seconds left that gave New York the lead for good.

In that Atlanta game, Anthony also tied the Knicks' franchise record for the number of straight games (29) in which he scored at least 20 points.

As the Hawks' Kyle Korver said after the game about Anthony's scoring ability: "When it rains, it pours."

With a career average of 24.7 points per game, Anthony has been one of the league's elite scorers for the past decade. Since Anthony entered the league in 2003, only seven players (including Anthony) have averaged at least 24 points per game throughout that time frame, according to Basketball Reference.

Before the 2012-13 season, however, he wasn't impacting the game enough in other areas besides scoring to truly earn that superstar label.

In August 2010,'s Tom Haberstroh suggested that Anthony wasn't even an "elite player" due to his scoring inefficiency (subscription required). His career shooting averages of 45.6 percent from the field and 33.4 percent from three-point range weren't anything special, Haberstroh argued, and nowhere near superstar status.

In essence, Haberstroh suggested that Anthony's per-game scoring totals were more a result of his high number of shot attempts per game, not an elite scoring ability. Haberstroh also noted that beyond scoring, Anthony lacked "many other bankable weapons as a player."

Less than six months later, the "Is Anthony a superstar?" question flared up in multiple publications in the days leading up to his eventual trade to the Knicks.

On Jan. 13, 2011, Jared Diamond echoed Haberstroh in the Wall Street Journal, writing, "Mr. Anthony scores like an elite player, but he requires more shots to put up his numbers than a true superstar."

That same day, David Berri of The Wages of Wins Journal suggested that differences in shooting efficiency and assists made LeBron James produce about five times the number of wins as Anthony. Both players put up similar per-game scoring totals, but James was clearly the more efficient, better player, according to Berri.

On Jan. 15, 2011, Nate Silver of the New York Times' Five Thirty Eight blog fired back at the advanced analytics advocates, suggesting that Anthony had "made his teammates much more efficient offensive players."

Despite Anthony having a true shooting percentage near the league average, Silver argued that Anthony's presence on the court drew "attention and defenders away from his teammates, sometimes leaving them wide-open shots."

Henry Abbott of ESPN's TrueHoop and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus each jumped into the conversation soon thereafter. Abbott quoted NBA trainer David Thorpe, who called Anthony "the best pure scoring small forward in the world," but Abbott also noted that Anthony is "nevertheless a fairly inefficient, high-volume and maybe even declining scorer."

Pelton, meanwhile, said Anthony appears to be an "All-Star-caliber player despite his other shortcomings."

So, back to the original question: Is Anthony a superstar? And if so, does that make him the most disrespected superstar in the league?

Before the 2012-13 season, "superstar scorer" would have been a more accurate label than just plain "superstar."

Anthony has demonstrably upped his game in his second full season with the Knicks, however.

Despite leading the league in usage rate (.347), he's setting career highs in points per game (29.4), three-point field goal percentage (.420) and PER (24.9), while averaging a career-low 2.5 turnovers per game, according to Basketball Reference.

His shift from small forward to power forward, which resulted largely from to Amar'e Stoudemire's early season knee troubles, has made him more deadly with the ball than ever before.

However, to call Anthony the most disrespected superstar in the league would mean turning a blind eye to his continued faults.

He's still not an efficient scorer, as he's shooting only 45.2 percent from the field in 2012-13. He's also still not an elite rebounder (6.2 boards per game), doesn't dish out assists very often (only 2.6 per game), and doesn't rack up steals or blocks like James or Kevin Durant, the two best forwards in basketball.

Player PER TS% eFG% ORtg DRtg WS
Carmelo Anthony 20.6 .545 .480 108 107 68.1
Kevin Durant 23.3 .590 .513 113 106 61.7
LeBron James 27.4 .571 .519 115 102 142.8
This chart of all three players' career averages shows how far Anthony has to go before reaching the level of Durant or James.

He may have earned the superstar label in 2012-13, but Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder has much more claim to the "most disrespected superstar" label than Anthony.

Until Anthony starts taking the strides that Durant has in 2012-13, he'll continue to remain on the periphery of superstardom, well behind the dominance of Durant or James.

Improved shot selection is the first of many obstacles Anthony must face before earning the league-wide respect that Knicks fans feel he rightfully deserves.

Note: Statistics are current through games played on Jan. 27.


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