Keys to Carmelo Anthony’s Career-Year
Carmelo Anthony has been regarded as one of the league’s elite scorers since the day he was drafted.
Anthony was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month six times during his rookie season, averaging 21 points per game as a 19-year-old during his debut campaign. In 2006-07, he poured in 28.9 ppg, finishing second behind only Kobe Bryant for the league scoring title.
Anthony currently ranks fifth in scoring average among all active players and 14th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Anthony’s resume speaks for itself. Thus, it is certainly not shocking that he’s been an offensive juggernaut this year for the Knickerbockers. However, despite how well Carmelo has played previously, and the type of numbers he’s put up throughout his career, it could easily be argued that Anthony is actually enjoying his best season ever.
In particular, Anthony has been especially hot since returning from a finger injury in early December. Over the last month, Carmelo is averaging 34.4 points and 3.3 three-pointers per contest; while shooting 50.6 percent from the floor, 85.6 percent from the free-throw stripe, and 43.4 percent from behind-the-arc.
One of the primary reasons for the spike in scoring has been Carmelo’s increase in attempts, and immensely accuracy, from three-point territory. Coming into this season, Anthony’s career-high in three-pointers made over the course of a complete regular season was 69, back in 2003-04. This year, through just 27 games, Anthony has already nailed 73 three-pointers.
During his days in Denver, Carmelo had never averaged more than 1.0 three-pointer per contest, or shot higher than 37.1 percent from behind the arc. This year, he is averaging 2.7 three-balls per game, and converting 43.5 percent of his long-distance attempts.
Over just his last 17 games, dating back to November 23rd, Anthony has made 58 three-pointers. To put that in perspective, he finished with 59 or fewer three-pointers in five of his seven full seasons as a Nugget.
However, Anthony hasn’t been content to settle strictly for long jumpers. Over his last 10 games, Carmelo is averaging nine free-throw attempts per contest, which ties him with Kevin Durant for the second highest free-throw attempts per game average in the league over that stretch.
It is also important to note that Anthony has drastically reduced the number of mid-range jumpers he attempts, as this been essential to the increase in efficiency and productivity at the offensive end. Per Hoopdata.com, during his final five seasons in Denver, Carmelo averaged approximately 6.5 shots per game between a distance of 16-23 feet from the basket. In 2010, he averaged 7.1 shots per contest from this range. This season, is averaging a career-low 4.5 attempts from between 16-23 feet.
It’s safe to assume this change in shot distribution is directly related to his shift to power forward. With Anthony at the four, he is often guarded by bigger and stronger, but slower defenders. Instead of posting up and isolating on the wing against smaller players as in year’s past, Carmelo has revamped his approach. If opposing power forwards don’t stay close to him on the perimeter, he is catching-and-making three’s. If they crowd him at the three-point line, he is driving past them and getting into the lane for lay-ups and dunks or forcing his way to the free-throw line. It’s similar to the way he played for Team USA last summer, when he stood out offensively even amongst the greatest basketball players on the planet.
Nearly every metric imaginable supports the suggestion that Anthony is reaching previously unattained heights. He is posting a career-high 26.7 PER; he’s never finished a season above 22.3. After finishing with just the Knicks sixth-best net plus-minus rating last year, Melo leads New York with a +189 thus far this season. His true shooting percentage has hovered around 60 percent all year; his previous career best was 56.8 percent. His effective field goal percentage currently sits above 54 percent; his high as a Nugget was 51.1 percent.
Moreover, Carmelo is also taking better care of the ball, averaging a career-low 2.5 turnover per game. Yes, Anthony is currently scoring more than he ever has (29.3 ppg) while also committing fewer turnovers. That’s obviously an ideal combination.
The calendar just flipped to 2013, and much of this current campaign remains. However, if Carmelo Anthony can continue to produce at this pace, 2012-13 may go down as the finest single season in the illustrious career of one’s this generations greatest offensive forces.