How Will the Triangle Offense Affect Carmelo Anthony's Scoring?
There has been talk around the NBA about how Carmelo Anthony will have to learn to pass the ball better and will need to be more of a team player in the new triangle offense that Derek Fisher is installing in New York. Carmelo has even said he’ll have to take fewer shots until it’s "time to go."
That’s only partially true.
Although Anthony does have to improve his passing in this fluid offense, I don’t see his scoring coming down. Let’s look at some evidence that shows Carmelo’s scoring will not only not decrease, but likely improve along with an increase in efficiency.
This is the first time Anthony will be playing in a good offensive system – the triangle. The triangle is not the answer to all questions, but it's, in my opinion, better than whatever "offense" Mike Woodson implemented last season. Under Woodson, the New York Knicks passed the ball to Anthony or J.R. Smith and then proceeded to watch them play one-on-one basketball, often getting double- and triple-teamed. With the triangle in town, the ball should move around much better and open up things for Carmelo. In an interesting piece released by EPSN’s Charley Rosen, Phil Jackson notes that exact point – it will be difficult for teams to double-team Melo. Jackson also says that there will be "plenty of iso opportunities," implying Anthony won’t lose much volume this year.
Many people are quoting how the triangle is made to spread the ball around, but that doesn’t mean the best scorer in the offense sees fewer opportunities. Let's look at some of Kobe Bryant's numbers in the triangle, focusing specifically on two years during his prime.
That’s not a typo. Kobe average 27.2 shots per game in this system. Michael Jordan, who also played under Phil Jackson, averaged over 23 shots per game during his time in Chicago. In comparison, Anthony took 21.3 shots per game last season. Yes, there were years where Kobe and MJ didn’t have a great supporting cast, but the same applies here in New York. Outside of J.R. Smith, who is going to help Anthony score?
Another improvement from years past is that Jose Calderon is probably the most pass-friendly point guard Carmelo has played with. All the point guards in Melo’s past have either been below average players or score-first point-guards like Allen Iverson. Calderon is a player who excels in distributing the ball and will be able to find Carmelo in his favorite spots. He can make the entry pass consistently and get the offense flowing like it’s supposed to.
Calderon should also help stretch the defense better than Raymond Felton did last year. Calderon is a career 41% three-point shooter. Felton is converts on just 33% of his attempts from beyond the arc. All that helps Anthony and prevents teams from being able to double-team him.
Another point Phil Jackson mentioned is that Anthony will get plenty of opportunities to post up. That’s good news for him, especially if he’ll be posting up on the right block. Anthony was the second best player posting up on the right block in the entire NBA according to bballbreakdown and that looks like it will be a big part of the offense.
Last season, out of Anthony’s 21.3 field goals per game, 8.3 came from pull-up shots. He only made 40.5% of those. His efficiency was much better in all other situations, and there will definitely be an attempt by the Knicks to get him in situations where he isn’t pulling up for long mid-range shots. This is probably the biggest change we'll see, and it should be a positive one for Melo's efficiency and productivity.
Can Melo Compete for the Scoring Title?
It’s not easy for everyone to buy into a system like this, but Melo is saying all the right things so far. If he can improve on his shot selection and bring his shooting percentage closer to 50%, I think Anthony has a real chance at winning the scoring title this year based on New York's upgrade at point guard, the field goal attempts that Bryant and Jordan have seen in the past, and the opportunities Anthony will have on the low block.
In fact, Carmelo is my favorite to win it. An improved efficiency and scoring along with higher assist numbers also gives Anthony a boost in fantasy, where he is already a top-eight player. Purchase accordingly.