NBA Analysis: Will Carmelo Anthony Live Up to Knicks Hype?

| by David Berri

Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal asks: Does Adding Anthony Mean Wins?

His answer begins with the following observation:

The megadeal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks has in many ways become a battle between the old and new schools of understanding basketball.

On one side, some so-called experts—generally analysts in the media—are championing the new-look Knicks as legitimate title contenders. Meanwhile, proponents of statistical analysis continue to rank Anthony among the NBA’s most overrated players.

Jared’s story goes on to note (according to some economist at Southern Utah University), that the acquisition of Anthony does improve the Knicks. But not as much as some people might think.

In the article it is noted that I think the Knicks could be a 50-win team with this trade. Forecasting is of course difficult.  Especially about the future. But here is a quick summary of my thinking on this move.  Essentially I see the trade as having three key components:

  • Carmelo Anthony replaces Wilson Chandler
  • Chauncey Billups replaces Raymond Felton
  • Someone (probably Ronny Turiaf) takes the minutes of Timofey Mosgov

The following table summarizes how the Knicks would look if these three moves had been made at the start of the season.

Anthony has posted a 0.168 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] at small forward this year.  Chandler – if he is a small forward – has a 0.110 WP48 at this position.  So giving Chandler’s 1,759 minutes to Anthony improves the Knicks – after 54 games – by 2.1 wins. 

This is a rather modest improvement.  But this is not all the Knicks have done. 

  • Chauncey Billups has posted a 0.158 WP48 at point guard.  Raymond Felton’s WP48 has been 0.129.  Giving Billups the 2,074 minutes Felton has played (and at the advanced age of Billups, that might be a stretch), results in 1.2 additional wins.
  • Finally, for some reason the Nuggets insisted on acquiring Timofey Mozgov.  If Mozgov’s 458 minutes could have been played by Ronny Turiaf, the Knicks would have improved this year by 1.5 wins. This is because Mozgov’s WP48 is -0.104 (while Turiaf –at center – has a 0.049 mark).

If we put it all together, these three moves improve the Knicks – after 54 games – by 4.8 wins.  Across 82 games, that is a 7.3 game improvement.  And since the Knicks Wins Produced – as detailed yesterday—stands at 27.8 wins (or 42.1 over an 82 games season), these three moves suggest the Knicks are quite close to 50 wins.

Once again, it is not just Anthony that gets the team this far.  But he does help (a little bit).

One should note that I am ignoring in this analysis the loss of Danilo Gallinari, as well as the addition of Shelden Williams, Corey Brewer, and Anthony Carter.  But I ran the numbers (and played with the minutes of the players as well) with all these players and still came out around 50 wins.

Of course, this projection assumes per-minute performance doesn’t change (which could happen if someone gets hurt) and that I can guess how many minutes each player plays (and I probably can’t).  I am also ignoring schedule strength, which over 28 games (that is all that is left) probably is important.

Ignoring all that stuff, though, and I think we can conclude (sort of), that the Knicks are a little bit better off.  But by no means is this team on par with Miami, Boston, Chicago, or Orlando (although quirky stuff can happen in a seven game series).

Jared was not the only writer I spoke with on Tuesday.  Sam Mamudi of MarketWatch also called.   Sam was less interested in how Melo would impact the Knicks on the court (although that was part of our conversation) and more interested in how Melo would change the Knicks performance as a business.

Sam’s story — Carmelo Anthony to N.Y.: Business as usual? Fans hope for playoff success, but on- and off-court doubts remain – casts doubt on the notion that Melo will help the Knicks’ bottom line.   The story touches upon all the financial aspects of the move (from ticket sales, to television revenue, to merchandise sales).  And from all these angles it doesn’t look like the trade for Anthony will help the Knicks much financially.

One argument I would make, though, is that the Knicks are probably not interested in winning at the bottom line.  As hard as it may be for people to believe, the Knicks are really trying to win on the court.  Yes, all the moves Isiah Thomas made were really designed to bring a title to New York.  And that is what the acquisition of Melo is also about.  Unfortunately, I think fans of the Knicks are ultimately going to be disappointed by this move. 

Let me close by noting three more stories related to this move. 

  • Michael Salfino – of the Wall Street Journal – reminds people of New York that they have seen this story before.  No, Michael isn’t talking about Isiah.  Michael’s story reminds people of the Knicks acquisition of Bob McAdoo (way back in the 1970s).   Yes, the Knicks have a history of trying to win with scorers (and I guess they will keep trying this strategy until it works).
  • Dre Alvarez and I are not the only WoW Network people to comment on this trade.  Ty Willihnganz has also commented on this move.  And as one can see, Ty also thinks the Knicks are improved with this move (but again, the Knicks are still not a title contender).
  • And finally, Chad Ford – of – looks at the Knicks desire to add a third “star” to their roster.  Chad’s analysis of the Knicks salary cap position suggests adding another maximum player will be difficult.  Apparently people thought Chad’s story meant he was “hating on the Knicks” (or something like that ).  At least, that is something Chad tweeted about yesterday.  It is odd how a simple analysis of some numbers can lead people to think you are just “hating on their team or favorite player”.

One last note… I am currently scheduled to be on Bloomberg Radio – with Kathleen Hays – tomorrow at 2:30pm EST.  Kathleen and I will be discussing Carmelo and the Knicks.  You can tune in if you live in New York.  Or if not, you can listen on-line

- DJ

P.S. And as I worked on getting this story posted, Deron Williams was traded to the Nets.  Hopefully I can say something about this soon.