Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nuggets, Knicks, and the 'Melo Effect'

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While the Raptors haven't been very interesting lately - although they did pull off a nice upset of the Thunder before getting absolutely walloped by the Nuggets last night - I've been looking into other things. One of these things, incidentally, was the improvement in the play of the Nuggets since they traded away Carmelo Anthony. And if you don't believe that the Nuggets have improved, here are some stats for you, because here at the Wages of Wins Network, we're all about stats:

  • record before the trade: 32-25
  • record after the trade: 10-4
  • points for/game before the trade: 107.6
  • points for/game after the trade: 107.0
  • point against/game before the trade: 105.2
  • point against/game after the trade: 94.7
  • point differential before the trade: +2.4
  • point differential after the trade: +12.3

As you can see, the Nuggets are quite a bit better. The aforementioned walloping of the Raptors by 33 points even took place without Arron Afflalo and Raymond Felton playing!

So the question is this: why are the Nuggets playing so much better since the trade? Isn't Carmelo Anthony a superstar? Shouldn't the Nuggets be playing worse without him?

Well, we already know that Carmelo Anthony isn't a superstar, despite popular opinion, so we don't need to look into that question again. But what's going on with the rest of the team? I'll admit it: because I'm somewhat obsessed, I look at every single NBA box score. I've been noticing a change in the shot distribution of the Nuggets. With Anthony, the team always had at least one player who took upwards of 20+ field goal attempts per game. With Anthony gone, the team has not yet had anyone hit 20 FGA in game.

I know this for a fact because I've looked into it. In fact, I've made some very pretty and informative tables (if I do say so myself) on this very subject. I looked at the shot distribution of the Nuggets both before and after the Melo trade; I added up the total FGAs by all the Nuggets players, so it's easy to see who takes the most shots. I've also counted the number of games a players' FGA falls within six different ranges: 0-4 FGA, 5-9 FGA, 10-14 FGA, 15-19 FGA, 20-24 FGA, and 25+ FGA.

Here's the first pretty table, which shows the Nuggets' shot distribution before Carmelo Anthony had been traded:

As you can see, there is one player (Anthony) who took/hogged all the shots, and was the only player on the team to have more than 19 FGA in a game (as demonstrated by the less colourful blue bars on the right of the image). Here's the second table, which shows the Nuggets' shot distribution after the Anthony trade:

Looks quite a bit different, doesn't it? The shot attempts are spread out quite a bit more, as the slope of the blue bars is a lot more gradual. The other thing to notice is that, with Carmelo Anthony gone, there are no longer any games with 20-24 FGA or 25+ FGA.

But that's just one half of the story. What happened to the Knicks? First of all, let's see how the Knicks have done both before and after the trade:
  • record before the trade: 28-26
  • record after the trade: 7-9
  • points for/game before the trade: 106.2
  • points for/game after the trade: 105.9
  • point against/game before the trade: 105.8
  • point against/game after the trade: 104.6
  • point differential before the trade: +0.4
  • point differential after the trade: +1.3

Okay, so the Knicks look like they might be a little bit better - but these numbers aren't adjusted for pace or quality of opposition, so there might not be that much of an improvement. For now, let's just say the Knicks have improved ever so slightly.

What do the shot distribution table look like for the Knicks? Here's the Knicks' table for games played before the Melo trade:

The shot attempts were clearly being dominated by Amaré Stoudemire, but the team actually had a relatively gradual slope. Amaré was the only player to take 25 or more shots in a game, but Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler had managed to get in a few games in the 20-24 FGA range. Now let's look at the Knicks' table for games after the Melo trade went down:

Uh-oh. The Knicks seem to have lost their balance. This table looks a lot like the Nuggets' table from before the trade, except that the shots are being hogged by two players instead of one. At the far right of the table, we can see that Anthony and Stoudemire are having a competition to see who can take the most shots.

So those are the team tables. Let me raise an important point before we go any further: these tables do not take into consideration the extra value accrued from three point shots, nor do they consider free throw attempts and makes. Because of this we miss some potentially useful information. The reason that it's missing is simply because of the amount of time it would've taken me to put if together.

But wait, there's more! I've also done individual shot distribution tables for all the players involved! Here's a comparison of the Nuggets' players who have played with and without Anthony this season:

And here's a comparison of the Knicks' players who have played with and without Anthony this season:

And here's a comparison for the players who were involved in the trade, and have either never played with  Anthony this season, or have only played with Anthony this season:

For the most part, the shooting tendencies of all players involved haven't changed much at all. In some cases - such as with Shawne Williams in New York - the trade has influenced the number of minutes a player is playing, which does affect FGA, but apparently not very much.

In the next couple of days I will - finally - write about the Raptors again, I promise. And just a reminder, there is still a trivia question that needs some answers!

 - Devin


  1. Devin,
    Awesome stuff. I'm curious about this exact same graphic for the 76ers before and after Iverson. Keep up the good work as long as it stays complimentary to Denver.

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