Carmelo Anthony may have only shot 8-21 from the field on Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, but he actually increased his shooting percentage over his previous eleven games from 36.2% to 36.4%. I was tempted to concoct a post about how efficient Carmelo had been to start the season until I remembered he has done this before. While Carmelo does not always get off to a fast start he is no stranger to posting big numbers in the first month of the season. The great start to this season is like mile high hair, nothing but a memory. Over his previous five full games Melo’s best shooting performance was his 7-18 outing against the Bulls. It is the longest stretch of games where he has made fewer than 40% of his shots since his second season in the league when his shot selection reached abysmal levels of absurdity.
Against the Bobcats Anthony submitted a very lackadaisical performance. He continually settled for jump shots, 13 of his 21 attempts were from outside 15 feet, which is not how you work your way out of a shooting slump. To make things worse, he was credited with only one assist compared to four turnovers. Carmelo is even struggling from the charity stripe only making six of ten attempts in Charlotte. In fact over his previous three games he has made a mere 24 of 36 from the line. The good news is he is earning free throws averaging 12 per game in those three games, he is simply failing to convert.
Melo will certainly bounce back from these few poor games. He is not taking terrible shots, several of the jumpers he attempted versus the Bobcats were open looks. What was troubling about his choices versus the Bobcats was Charlotte is not an elite defensive team, but Carmelo was content with either taking jumpers, i.e. shots he has been missing for over a week now, or forcing the ball into the teeth of the defense. The Bobcats’ defense can be broken down, but it takes more than one pass to do so. Plus players like J.R. Smith, 4-6 from behind the arc, Nene, 4-6 from the floor, and Chauncey Billups, 4-8 from downtown, were shooting very well and deserved more looks. Carmelo’s usage rate for the game was 35.5, well above his 28.1 rate for the season. As a rule of thumb, you do not want your least efficient player banking that high of a usage rate.
George Karl does his best to try to keep the team focused on the paint instead of the perimeter. He regularly calls for sets that get Nene the ball on the block and in the closing seconds of tonight’s game he had Melo post up twice in the last couple of minutes, but the result was a miss and a strip. Charlotte was certainly ready for Melo on the block even though it took 46 minutes to get him there.
Looking at some of the more in depth scoring stats Carmelo, who always had a high percentage of his shots at the rim blocked, is seeing nearly one in every five shots he attempts at close range is getting thrown back at him and his field goal percentage on shots at the rim is an unsatisfactory 52.0%. You can see the reason why in the column next to his field goal percentage. The percentage of his shots at the rim created by a teammate, where an assist is awarded, has fallen to a surprisingly low 41.5%. Carmelo is trying to do too much on his own and the result is he is hurting the Nuggets on offense. The proof is in the pudding. Even when Carmelo is not playing well the argument, which I personally believe to be true, is that he draws so much attention it helps his teammates get better shots. Do not look now, but the Nuggets make more pudding when Carmelo is on the bench than they do when he is on the court. With Carmelo on the floor, Denver produces 110.1 points per 100 possessions, which is good. However, when he is watching from the sideline Denver actually cranks out 116.6 points per 100 possessions. That is not just a little better, that is significantly better.
(If you want to see a number that will really blow your mind, check out the on and off court defensive numbers. Defensively Denver coughs up 105.0 points per 100 possessions when Carmelo is playing. That number jumps up to 115.9 when he is in the courtside padded seats. Part of that can be attributed to Gary Forbes who has an on the court team defensive efficiency of 121.9. Yikes!)
Now, I do not believe Denver is a better offensive team with Melo a spectator. However, he is struggling right now and Denver could get away with his horrible offense playing mediocre teams at home. Now that they are on the road, if Melo does not get back to being at least league average efficient, Denver will be in for a bad road trip.
Game 20 Additional Nuggets
Fancy Schmancy Game Stats
Pace Factor: 96.4 – Fast for a road game, very fast for the Bobcats
Defensive Efficiency: 103.7 – Not a terrible performance, largely thanks to a lot of turnovers by Charlotte
Offensive Efficiency: 101.6 – This is truly where Denver lost the game, the defense should have been better, the offense should have been much better, just no patience and no movement