An Anomaly in Anthony’s Best Season


It’s hard to argue against the statement that Carmelo Anthony is having the best season of his career. He’s leading the NBA in scoring per game at 29 points per, and he’s averaging a career high in 3-point percentage (41.1%) and PER (24.5) while doing so. His Knicks stand at a 32-18 record, good for second-best in the Eastern Conference, and for the third straight year he’s been named an All-Star starter.Yet one oddity is glaring at me, and although I saw it with my own eyes, I needed to see the statistics to confirm it.

Zach Harper of CBS Sports wrote about Anthony’s prowess in clutch situations being just as strong as it’s been throughout his career. In the piece, Harper points out that with 5 minutes to play with Anthony’s team trailing or ahead by 5 points and everything in between in the fourth quarter or any overtime period, Carmelo is shooting 41.8% from the field in his career. He then remarks that Anthony is at 40% this season in these situations. What I noticed when researching this further was that 40% on the season is the 7th-worst percentage Anthony has ever shot for a season in these clutch moments in his entire career. A career which spans roughly 9 and a half years. Two games later, the percentage is now 37.2%, making this the worst clutch shooting season of his NBA life.

When I shorten the time remaining in the quarter to 2 minutes, Anthony’s field goal percentage drops to 31.6% which is the second-worst mark of any season in his career. I then shortened it to a single minute, and once again his percentage decreases dramatically. Melo is an abysmal 2-for-11 from the field in the final minute of a game with his team +/- 5, which ties his worst effort in any season in such situations with 18.2% shooting. I thought here: perhaps there have been many situations where the Knicks have trailed by 4 or 5 late and Carmelo tried to force them back into things? So I changed the criteria to +/- 3 points, instead of 5 and what I found was that he shot 1-for-7, 14.3% from the field – second-worst percentage for a season in his career.

Maybe it isn’t just Carmelo though. At first glance of these statistics, I couldn’t imagine that Anthony was that abysmal in last-minute conditions, so I compared his effectiveness to other superstars in the league. Final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime, with the score within 3.

  • LeBron James: 31.3%
  • Kevin Durant: 44.4%
  • Kobe Bryant: 25%
  • Kyrie Irving: 64.7%

Alright, so calling Kyrie Irving a superstar may be a stretch, but I just had to include him with that kind of shooting percentage. Outside of Irving, the numbers aren’t all that special, as none of them are impressive by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, all noticeably ahead of Anthony. Now why is his clutch shooting so atrocious?

I went back to the original “last 5 minutes, +/- 5 points,” format and looking at’s shot chart, I was able to get Anthony’s shot distribution (not shooting percentage) in those situations:

  • Restricted Area: 39.5%
  • In the Paint (Non-RA): 7%
  • Mid-Range: 32.6%
  • Three-Pointer: 20.9%

You’ll notice that Carmelo is taking more long-range shots than in-the-paint shots, which is not something to be applauding with how well Anthony has been able to attack the rim this year when he wants to. Now, onto his actual shooting percentages from these spots:

  • Restricted Area: 35.5%
  • In the Paint (Non-RA): 66.7%
  • Mid-Range: 42.9%
  • Three-Pointer: 22.2%

The one thing that shoots right off the page is Anthony’s inability to finish right by the rim. Perhaps the reasoning is fatigue, or Anthony failing to draw a foul call. To find out, I checked the footage.

Out of 17 field goal tries in the restricted area, only six attempts fell into the rim. That makes 11 misses, and four of those were caused by blocks. Three of them were from behind, and with that I noticed that Anthony rarely ever hesitates or pump fakes that deep in the paint, causing his shots to often get redirected from behind. Side note, two of those blocks were courtesy of Brook Lopez. Two of his six makes in this zone came from Melo tipping in his own miss, showing off his prevalent second-jumping speed.

The rest are what most clearly set apart Carmelo’s makes from his misses. On all four of his remaining field goal makes in this category, Anthony was completely isolated, and if help defense was trying to get to him they were far too late. Meanwhile, out of his remaining 7 misses, (the ones that weren’t caused by blocks) 5 of them were strongly contested by multiple defenders. The other 2 were unjustifiably bad layup misses, both against a single defender who was clearly not bothering Melo enough to force a miss.

The most common themes to pick up from all of this are that every single one of these shots came from Anthony making a move on his own, never running off a pick or receiving a hand-off from a teammate and he should be looking to dish it out if the defense collapses on him in the paint, because he couldn’t make one shot against a defense that was smart enough not to allow him to only have to deal with a single defender.

Now, to his three-pointers in the clutch. He attempted 9 treys and made just 2 in these late-game situations, and how he made those couple of long bombs won’t surprise anybody. Anthony is 0-5 from three-point land on off-the-dribble shots, and he is 2-4 on catch-and-shoot attempts. Case and point, stop taking so many walk-off threes Carmelo, and let the penetration of Raymond Felton or J.R. Smith get you a much easier, much more efficient look.

The idea that Carmelo Anthony has been a monster in crunch-time this season is, well, wrong. He’s been selfish, dishing out zero assists in the final 5 minutes of close games. He’s been counter-intuitive, settling for awful three-point attempts and not being smarter when taking it to the basket. He’s been, in the most simple manner, pretty awful, and this disturbs me as much as it would any Knicks fan hoping for a deep Playoffs run this Spring.

  • Kamar Daniel

    I mean you want the ball in your best players hands when the game gets close… of course his assist numbers are low. He’s not going to pass off the shot every time like Lebron. To be honest I don’t see the point of this article. It’s a breakdown of Melo’s shooting in the final minute of a game, but some of the best players missed more shots than they made them.

  • JJ

    good article. my one qualm is the idea that selfishness should be measured by assists — he is avging a career low in assists but anyone who watches the games knows that he passes out of doubles or drives via what eventually is a hockey assist to baskets, thus being unselfish and getting no box score credit. you don’t have to be a statistician to know this. do better.

    • David Vertsberger

      Calling him selfish was probably a bit much on my part, though zero assists? And he’s forced himself into shots a lot more times than he’s passed in the clutch, although he has been a much more wiling passer this season in general.