One way Carmelo Anthony is like Michael Jordan

Carmelo Anthony and Michael Jordan

This is a real story that is getting some attention at various sports sites. In yet another example that demonstrates that playing basketball may not be the same as understanding basketball, Carmelo Anthony — the Knicks’ leading scorer — thinks that the Knicks need another scorer.

“Scorers” are always defined as players who accumulate a large number of points. But there is more than one way that a player can score a large number of points:

  1. Take an average amount of shots, but be efficient in converting those shots into points (the James Harden method).
  2. Take a lot of shots and be efficient in converting those shots into points (the LeBron James or Kevin Durant method).
  3. Take a lot of shots, shooting efficiency be damned (the Carmelo Anthony method).

Only the first two methods lead to more wins. A player who follows the third method isn’t really helping, since those extra shots are just taken from his teammates.

So if the Knicks add another “scorer”, that will only help if the scorer is more efficient at scoring than the other players on the roster (and doesn’t hurt the team with respect to rebounds and turnovers). If the scorer isn’t more efficient, then he doesn’t help.

Basketball fans are constantly fooled by players who score a lot of points simply by taking a lot of shots. As long as a player scores a lot of points, most people who follow basketball don’t really care how productive a player is. But somewhat surprisingly, this oversight (and others) isn’t limited to casual basketball fans; even people who have played in the NBA still fall for this trick. It’s important to remember that, just because someone was once one of the best basketball players on the planet, that doesn’t mean that they understand how NBA players generate wins. Here are three prominent examples  (the last of which involves Mr. Melo) of people who don’t understand how basketball players generate wins, despite having played in the NBA:

  • Isiah Thomas was on two championship teams and played in 11 All-star games. During his time managing the Toronto Raptors, Toronto went 52-123. He was a bit better as a coach in Indiana, going 131-115 in three seasons before being fired. A couple years later, Thomas was hired by the Knicks to serve as their President of Basketball Operations. With Thomas as President, the Knicks went 180-288 across six seasons; during the last two seasons, Thomas was also the Knicks’ coach. Not only were the Knicks terrible on the court, they also usually had the highest payroll in the NBA. Famously, Thomas’ preferred strategy was to acquire as many “scorers” as possible.  In other words, more scorers — or what Melo wants — has been tried in New York very recently.
  • Michael Jordan was one of the most productive players ever. He won six championships with the Chicago Bulls, as well as countless awards, including NBA MVP (5 times), All-NBA 1st team (10 times), All-Star appearances (14 times), and a Defensive Player of the Year award. But he has failed miserably as an executive and owner. In three and half seasons directing personnel decisions for the Washington Wizards (including two as a player), the Wizards went 110-178. After retiring as a player for the third time, Jordan was fired from his executive position. In March of 2010, Jordan became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. In three seasons, Jordan’s teams have gone 62-168 and set the record for the worst single-season winning percentage in NBA history. Say what you will about Isiah Thomas, but at least he had a discernible strategy (the strategy didn’t work, but we knew what he was trying to accomplish).
  • Carmelo Anthony is “like Mike” in that he doesn’t understand why teams win and lose (although it should be noted that Melo is very unlike Mike on the court). Oddly enough, Melo only has to look to his own career to figure this out, because it was not too long ago that he was on the same team as another “scorer”. For two whole seasons, Melo shared the court with Allen Iverson (an inefficient scorer) when they were both in Denver. With two “scorers” on the roster, many people thought the Nuggets were title contenders. But Denver never came close to contending for a title while Melo and Iverson took turns taking shots; in fact, Denver lost in the first round in each of those two seasons, and then made the Western Conference Finals after Iverson was traded away for Chauncey Billups (an efficient “role player”).

Given that he probably thinks of himself as an amazingly productive player, it’s unlikely that Anthony has learned the lesson his entire career has taught. But if Michael Jordan — one of the most productive NBA players of all time — has struggled for years to learn that same lesson, perhaps we should cut him some slack?


– DJ and Devin

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