Can Carmelo Anthony Coexist With Russell Westbrook?
The term "ball hog" is passe. These days, it's far kinder to refer to a basketball player with a tendency to hold the rock as a "ball stopper" or a "ball dominator."
And now they're on the same team.
Breaking: Knicks agree to trade Carmelo Anthony to Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott & 2018 second-round pick, sources tell @wojespn. pic.twitter.com/zD2Q2XcqDy
â€” SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 23, 2017
On paper, this was an eminently logical move for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Last season -- their first without small forward/evil empire defector Kevin Durant -- the three spot was a gaping hole for the 47-35 Western Conference six-seed.
Here are last year's stats for OKC's battalion of small forwards as compared to Durant's digits with the Dubs. I've included nERD, our in-house efficiency metric, which you can learn more about in our glossary as well as Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
|Andre Roberson, OKC||79||30.1||6.6||5.1||1||46.4||42.3||9.6||-1.5|
|Jerami Grant, OKC||78||19.1||5.4||2.6||0.6||46.9||63.1||16.2||-0.2|
|Kyle Singler, OKC||32||12||2.8||1.5||0.3||41||76.5||-6||-1.1|
|Doug McDermott, OKC||22||19.5||6.6||1.3||0.6||45.2||70.6||12.1||-0.7|
|COMBINED AVERAGE - OKC||n/a||n/a||5.3||2.6||0.6||44.8||63.1||7.9||-0.8|
|Kevin Durant, GS||62||33.4||25.1||8.3||4.8||53.7||87.5||27.6||17.6|
So, yeah. Gaping hole. Which begs the question -- is Melo the guy to fill it?
To begin addressing the issue, we have to ask another question, that being, can Anthony and Westbrook -- the ball stopper and the ball dominator -- find a way to share the ball and remain happy and productive?
We have to first quantify their respective career hogginess (sorry, guys, we went there), and what better way to do so than with career usage percentage?
|Season||Carmelo Anthony||Russell Westbrook|
If those numbers seem high, well, they should. Anthony's 31.4 percent usage rate ranks eighth in NBA history, while Westbrook's 32.6 clip ranks second, giving OKC two of the 10 all-time hoggiest, most dominating ball stoppers. Add new Thunder acquisition Paul George and his career 24.2 usage rate (127th all-time) into the mix, and you have a recipe for potential on-court conflict.
But hold on a minute -- recent history tells us this sort of conflict can lead to a ring.
In his last two campaigns, Anthony's usage rate was less than 30 percent for the first time in 10 seasons. And Westbrook's outrageous, outlier-ish 41.7 percent usage rate from 2016-17 is due primarily to the fact that he had to trust the likes of Andre Roberson and Doug McDermott with Durant out of town. Simply put: Russ had no choice but to dominate the ball.
However, when Westbrook was teamed with Durant -- and when Durant was healthy -- the reigning MVP played well with others. Sort of.
During the seven seasons in which Durant and Westbrook were both on the Thunder, Durant played 70-plus games in five of them. Westbrook's average usage rate in those five seasons was 30.0 percent -- a hefty number but slightly more reasonable than his career average.
So if Westbrook can maintain that 30 percent mark while Anthony continues his two-season trend of staying below 30 percent, gosh, that might work.
After all, it has in the past, as four of the last six NBA champions had their top two players sport similar usage numbers.
|Team||Top 2 Players||Usage Rates|
|2016-17 Golden State Warriors||Steph Curry, Kevin Durant||30.1% and 27.8%|
|2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers||LeBron James, Kyrie Irving||31.4% and 29.5%|
|2014-15 Golden State Warriors||Steph Curry, Klay Thompson||28.9% and 27.6%|
|2013-14 San Antonio Spurs||Tony Parker, Tim Duncan||26.5% and 25.2%|
|2012-13 Miami Heat||LeBron James, Dwyane Wade||30.2% and 29.5%|
|2011-12 Miami Heat||LeBron James, Dwyane Wade||32.0% and 31.3%|
Miami's back-to-back championships, Cleveland's surprise ring, and Golden State's title a year ago prove that a star-dominant team can earn a trophy while led by two players who have a tendency to stop and/or dominate and/or hog the rock. If Westbrook and Anthony can play together -- and if Durant and his Warriors stumble -- things could get mighty interesting in the Sooner State.