Scoring Title Aside, Carmelo Anthony Doesn't Deserve All-NBA First-Team Nod
Carmelo Anthony had a terrific year—by some measures, his best ever—but the voters who named him to the All-NBA Second Team got it right. Even after averaging more points per game than any other player in the league, 'Melo didn't deserve a spot on the NBA's first team ahead of either Kevin Durant or LeBron James.
That probably shouldn't come as a shock anymore, as the slow growth of analytics in NBA front offices and among fans is starting to pull the curtain back on the surprisingly low value of low-efficiency, high-volume scorers.
To be clear, this past year was one of Anthony's very best because he was more efficient than ever. His high number of shot attempts (22.2 per game) and rather pedestrian field-goal percentage (45 percent) might not make it seem that way, but because 'Melo jacked 6.2 threes per game at a 38 percent clip and knocked down 83 percent of his foul shots, his overall season was remarkably efficient.
As a result, he posted a career-high PER of 24.83 and a true shooting percentage of 56 percent, which was the first time since 2007-08 that Anthony had reached that mark.
Plus, from a team perspective, he was the best player on a New York Knicks squad that posted its most wins (54) since the 1996-97 season and captured its first Atlantic division title since 1994. For the first time in a very long while, it became hard to accuse Anthony of being an "empty stats" guy. Team success tends to have that effect.
Summation: 'Melo was really good during the 2012-13 season.
But James and Durant were a lot better.
By every conventional statistical measure besides points per game, Anthony fell short of the two forwards who earned spots on the NBA's first team.
Looking at some more advanced metrics, the outcome is the same. Anthony's PER of 24.83 was good enough to rank fourth in the NBA, but it paled in comparison to James' league-leading 31.67 and Durant's 28.35.
The list could go on, but you get the idea: Anthony's excellent season just wasn't on the same level as either Durant's or James'.
If there's an argument against such a strong reliance on the numbers (and there always is), it's that Anthony didn't have the star talent surrounding him like James and Durant did. The thinking is that a better supporting cast would have taken the pressure off of Anthony and resulted in better numbers.
While it's true that nobody on the Knicks is as dangerous a teammate as Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or Russell Westbrook, the argument that Anthony's numbers would have been better if he'd had a more capable sidekick is a lazy one.
How do we know that better surrounding players wouldn't actually have detracted from Anthony's production? It's conceivable that his percentages might have improved, but any such uptick would likely have come at the cost of the counting stats that many people cite as evidence of his quality as a player.
And here's the other thing: Anthony is a stone-cold scorer. In one-on-one situations, he has a single thought in mind: getting buckets. That kind of mental process makes it hard to pair Anthony with another star-caliber player because no matter who he's playing with, Anthony is never going to work to set up his teammates.
Carmelo Anthony named All-NBA second Team, averaged more points in true one-on-one situations than MIN and MIL as teams.— mySynergySports (@mySynergySports) May 23, 2013
While James and Durant have proved themselves willing to occasionally take a backseat, function as a facilitator or focus on doing things besides scoring, Anthony has never shown a similar willingness to subjugate himself for the betterment of his team.
And as for the notion that better teammates would have drawn attention away from Anthony on offense, it's hard to ignore the fact that the Knicks' style basically left Anthony free to operate in isolation all the time. By spreading the floor and getting the ball to 'Melo in space, the Knicks essentially created a situation that allowed Anthony to work without being doubled.
We know how good Anthony is, and more importantly, we know who Anthony is. It's just not sensible to say that he'd be any better with a different cast than the one he played with this past season.
So, Anthony's failure to make the All-NBA First team isn't really a "failure" at all. And saying that he didn't deserve to be named one of the two best forwards in the game is hardly a knock against him.
He just had some historically great competition that he wasn't good enough to overcome.
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