Much of the following was originally posted by Jonathan Weiler at theESPNwatch. I want to add in one more thought. Bill Simmons argues — and Jonathan notes — that Carmelo Anthony just needs better teammates. If you compare Melo to LeBron, though, you can see that quality of teammates is not the problem.
The following table reports LeBron’s Wins Produced in his career. In addition it notes the production of his teammates.
Now let’s report the same for Carmelo Anthony.
Except for the 2013-14 season, Carmelo Anthony has always played with more productive teammates than LeBron. And in 2013-14, LeBron’s teammates were only four wins better.
So contrary to what Simmons argues, Carmelo’s failure to win is not about his teammates. It is really about Carmelo.
Okay, on to Jonathan’s discussion of Simmons…
Bill Simmons’ piece this week about ‘Melo manages to dress up a simple argument in a lot of numbers and verbiage: Carmelo is a great player, even if not an all-time great, because he scores a lot. He’s been unlucky, says Simmons, in that he’s had relatively little help in his career.
Contrary to the naysayers, Simmons believes ‘Melo can be a top-dog on a championship team, were he to have the right pieces around him. Simmons contends that the 2011 Mavs, led by Dirk Nowitzki, provide an interesting potential model for how a Melo-led team could win an NBA title . Notable about Simmons’ analysis of that Mavs team is that he does not so much as mention Jason Kidd.
Here’s Simmons on the 2011 Mavs:
“The 2011 Mavericks won the title with a veteran team built around a spectacular coach (Rick Carlisle), an elite rim protector (Tyson Chandler), an elite perimeter defender (Shawn Marion), an elite heat-check guy (Jason Terry), quality 3-point shooting (39.4 percent and 184 made 3s in 21 playoff games), savvy team defense and one historically good scorer with crunch-time chops (Dirk Nowitzki). If you believe Carmelo can lead a championship team, you’re leaning heavily on that 2011 Mavs playbook — you’d need all the elements we just covered, and you’d need Carmelo to unleash a damned good Dirk impression.”
You’d never know Kidd so much as suited up for them. It’s kind of funny, especially in the context of what Melo needs to contend, since he just happened to be on a 54-win Knick team in 2013 that included Kidd. The 2013 Knicks and 2011 Mavs had something notable in common – Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd were, by far, the most productive players on both those teams. Indeed, for all the reading of entrails about why the Knicks were so much worse in 2014 than in 2013, it wasn’t that complicated – 1) they lost Kidd to the coaching ranks and 2) Chandler missed substantial playing time. Those two factors alone accounted for the bulk of their decline to 37 wins in 2014.
Kidd’s skill set is vastly undervalued by Simmons’ preferred metric for basketball production, PER. That’s because PER prizes shot-taking, whereas Kidd just did everything else well on a basketball court, including in 2011, when he produced the most wins on the team. OK, we can argue about player performance but, seriously, Jason Kidd doesn’t even rate a *mention* in a discussion of the 2011 Mavs? Don’t tell me this is a debate about intangibles,or making your teammates better, or any of that stuff. Kidd would rate super-high in such discussions.
This is a debate about whether shot-taking and point totals are the best way to evaluate players. Simmons reflects well conventional wisdom in NBA circles in this regard. Here’s wondering whether folks will start catching on to the fact that the Spurs, for instance, tend not to see the world that way. Suggestively, in that regard, the Spurs did not have a single player in the top 50 in field goal attempts in the NBA this season.
– Jonathan Weiler (with some comments from DJ)