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Checking in on the Melo-Amar’e-Tyson Trio

One of the popular qualms with the make-up of this New York Knicks roster has been that the All-Star trio of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler cannot play on the floor together. I was very hesitant to agree or disagree with this criticism  with most statistics proving in true but many things in my head making me believe the three could work well together on the court. I decided to take on a side of the argument after deep investigation into their on-court chemistry this season. Just my luck, as Stoudemire missed the first 30 games of the year, so analysis was impossible. Now with a solid stretch of games passed where he’s been back in the rotation (not starting yet) behind us, I want to take a look at how the team has performed with the aforementioned triplet of massive contracts and unmet expectations.

This Knicks team has struggled lately, and talks of changing the starting lineup are circling. One possibility is moving Stoudemire into the starting lineup with the already fortified starters Anthony and Chandler. Many fans and experts, myself alike, hate the idea, as Carmelo Anthony has prospered like never before in his career while playing at the power forward position, the same one as Stoudemire. Though at this point, after a loss to the Washington Wizards, two straight losses to the Toronto Raptors, and a complete atrocity against the Indiana Pacers, one could say the Knicks might need to get a bit desperate.

Melo, Amar’e and Tyson have played 200 minutes together on the floor this season, spanning 22 games and 367 possessions.  With this, it’s probably safe to say that the following analysis isn’t based on a sample size all too small.

For starters, let’s have a look at the Knicks’ advanced stats when the trio is on the court compared to the team’s season’s and past five games’ results:

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Obvious things first, the Knicks are a much better rebounding team when they have their best three bigs on the floor. This goes without saying.

With the “big three” on the court, the Knicks play some of the worst defense they possibly can, very much similar to their defense in the past five contests. One issue is moving Anthony down to the three spot, where his opposition has a 3% higher eFG% compared to when Melo is at the four. The major culprit though, is that Stoudemire is a cancer on defense for this Knicks team. When he is on the floor, the Knicks Defensive Rating hits its second-lowest point compared to when every other Knick checks in to the contest. The one player worse for the Knicks defensively? James White, and his case is arguable considering he’s tallied just 231 minutes. Stoudemire still, 10 years into his NBA career, lacks the simplest of defensive attributes in his game, making him a much better option with the bench unit, running a zone defense.

Next you’ll notice the disparity between the Knicks turnover percentage on the season, and when Anthony, STAT, and Tyson are in the game. All three players aren’t very turnover-prone players, the entire team hasn’t been all season, yet why the increase in TO%? Individually, the player with the largest leap in TO% when surrounded by his two fellow musketeers is in fact Tyson Chandler, who’s 14% season tally jumps to 20.6% when playing with Melo and Amar’e. Crowding in the paint can be the problem here, with all three players scores largely coming from near the basket, leading to defensive pressure that causes bad passes and fumbled basketballs.

On the bright side, the Knicks have absolutely torched opponents with these three in the ball game. An offensive rating of 115 and a true-shooting percentage of 58.1% is bananas over this long of a stretch. The Knicks play the 24th quickest pace in the entire league, so the correlation between their amazing offense and their extremely slow pace with this trio on the floor is no fluke. As for individual scoring by the three when they play together, the results are quite the eye-opener.

Once again, it seems that Tyson Chandler’s play has worsened the most out of all three All-Stars being on the court at the same time. While Anthony’s eFG% increased from 50.3% to 52.3%, and Stoudemire’s eFG% increased from 56.9% to 59%, Tyson Chandler’s eFG% plummeted from 66.1% to 55.2% from his season average to when he’s on the court with Anthony and Stoudemire. This once again goes back to floor spacing, and making the defense’s job easier by packing the paint with three of your offensive threats. Also, pick-and-rolls become a lot harder to run with less space to work with, less gaps to toss oops through.

Most would expect Anthony’s offensive efficiency to worsen with his playing at the small forward, but surprisingly this wasn’t the case. What makes this all the more odd is that 10% less of Anthony’s shots are assisted when playing with STAT and Tyson, meaning more isolation and post-up plays, ones all the more difficult to score on with the paint clogged.

The two players that have played alongside the Knicks big three the most are J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton, having played 331 and 196 possessions with them respectively. The next two are Jason Kidd with 132 possessions and Pablo Prigioni with 70. Kidd and Prigs haven’t taken quite enough shots to properly determine how playing alongside the Knicks All-Star trio has affected their shooting numbers, so we’ll just focus on Felton and Smith. Felton’s 45.1% eFG% on the season jumps to 53.7%, and Smith’s season eFG% of 46.1% increases to 50%, both very promising results. Iman Shumpert has played just 11 possessions with Amar’e, Melo and Chandler on the court, which isn’t nearly enough considering he along with, say, Prigioni could possibly balance out their awful defense.

These stats aren’t promises of success if head coach Mike Woodson decides to play the Knicks three biggest contracts at the same time more often, or even start them together. The offensive numbers are far too impressive to possibly be maintained over longer periods of game time, and the defense, well yeah that sounds about right. There’s no real clear-cut sense of how effective Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler can truly be on the court together right now, but without a doubt they’ve made a huge collective improvement from previous installments of the trio.

  • jared

    Very interesting. Just curious, where do these sort of stats come from?

    • http://twitter.com/_Verts David Vertsberger

      Various sources, NBA.com’s stats site mostly, nbawowy.com is another.