To say the Knicks are playing on all cylinders doesn’t do justice to how incredibly the team has performed. The defense has been tremendous, as the team currently leads the league in opponent’s points allowed (87.5), opponent’s field goal percentage (41%) and defensive efficiency (95.7). While the numbers and rankings may be a major surprise, the team was fifth in defensive efficiency last season and Mike Woodson-coached teams have a history of playing hard-nosed defense. His Atlanta Hawks improved every year in defensive efficiency, going from 28th in 2004-05 all the way up to 13th in 2009-10. The major surprise, and what was a concern during the pre-season, has been the Knicks’ performance offensively. They ‘re currently second in the league in scoring (104.5), eighth in field goal percentage (45%), second in three-point shooting (44%) and lead the league in offensive efficiency (114.3), while averaging the lowest turnovers (11.3) per game. There are many contributing factors to the Knicks’ offensive onslaught early this season, but the most notable is the play of their leader, Carmelo Anthony.
Last year, Anthony ran an isolation on 35.4% of his offensive possessions, while scoring .84 points per possession, on 37.4% shooting. When playing in the post, which only occurred on 13% of his offensive possessions, Melo’s points per possession increased to .95, on 44.3% shooting. As you can see from the numbers, despite excelling in the post, Melo continued to force isolation possessions, which hindered the team, as his production lowered.
So far this year, though, Melo’s distribution of offensive plays has changed… for the better.
He’s now running an isolation on 21.7% of his possessions, for .78 points per possession, on 36.8% shooting. He’s in the post on 22.6% of his offensive possession, scoring 1.25 points per possession, on 55.6% shooting. The drop in isolation has also allowed him to up his scoring in other areas, primarily in transition and spot-ups. Last season, Anthony got his points 8.6% of the time in transition for 1.29 points per possession while this year he’s increased to that 1.4 points per possession in the 14.2% of the times he’s been in transition. He’s using spot-ups 19.8% of the time compared to 11.7% last season leading to an rise of .91 points per possession to .95. Neither number is a huge jump but they are improvements.
When Melo plays in the post, the team benefits substantially, because he’s such an offensive weapon that he forces teams to double-team him, which leaves an open shooter along the three-point line for Melo to kick out to. If the defense decides to go one-on-one with Melo in the post, well, they get bullied and Melo gets a pretty easy two points. Not only is Melo spending more time in the post, but he’s kicking the ball out when the double-team comes, something that we haven’t seen too much in the past.
Melo’s adjustment on the offensive end of the floor, so far in this young season, has already shown to pay huge dividends, as the entire team is benefiting. His increased post-play is giving others the opportunity to knock down open shots; his increased spot-up shooting is spacing the floor, as he’s not bringing it into the Tyson Chandler occupied paint; and his increased transition offense has led to more free-throw attempts – 9.0 vs. 6.7 last year – which gives the Knicks easy points.
All in all, Carmelo Anthony’s adjustment on the offensive end of the floor has helped the Knicks become the league’s best offensive team, scoring 114.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s very encouraging to see a superstar change his game at this point in his career, to benefit his team.