Carmelo: Subtraction by Addition (So Far)

Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post doesn’t exactly offer a resounding endorsement of the February 21 NY Knicks acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, but he does reply to detractors  (Tepid on Carmlo Trade? Consider the Alternative?).  His upshot — Stoudemire is worn down, so the record would have suffered anyway; the Knicks are still better for April:

Only the Stoudemire we see now bears no resemblance to the one we saw during the Knicks’ emergence. Which leaves you with only two logical conclusions:

1. There’s no shot the Knicks would have maintained their earlier pace with Wilson Chandler or Gallinari replacing Stoudemire as the go-to guy.

2. They may never replicate it again. But as Anthony showed against the Magic on Monday (and, if you’re going to be fair, has shown more often than not), say what you will about the Knicks now, but they are certainly not over-dependent on Stoudemire and his fickle knees right now.

What the Knicks need, as much as anything, is a brief surge to wrap up the playoffs and the

No. 7 seed, and then a final week when they can shut Stoudemire down and reboot for the playoffs. Maybe that works, maybe it doesn’t, but it gives the Knicks a far more legitimate chance to be interesting in April than they otherwise would have had.

There’s no way of knowing the path of the Knicks without the trade.  Vacarro readily admits the not-so-stellar performance of the team but wants to lay it off on Stoudemire fatigue.   No doubt, many factors other than Melo may have contributed to the team performance.  It is interesting, however, to consider Anthony’s “marginal productivity” not only examining the Knicks since the trade, but also the Nuggets.
Nuggets WPCT with Melo:   56% (32-25)
Nuggets WPCT w/o  Melo:  76% (13-4)
Melo Subtraction         : +20%

Knicks WPCT with Melo:   52% (28-26)
Knicks WPCT w/o  Melo:   42% (9-12)
Melo Addition              :  -10%

Forget points, plus-minus, … The addition and subtraction of a player offers the most appealing statistic and a “natural experiment” of sorts.  Of course, well-designed experiments hold as many other influences constant as possible.  As Vacarro correctly notes, Stoudemire’s fatigue level isn’t necessarily constant.   What about the level of competition?  Since the trade, the Nuggets’ opponents have a winning percentage of 50% while the Knicks’ opponents are at 49%.  I don’t have data on opponents percentages prior to the trade.  Likely, these are close to 50% but with unbalanced scheduling in the Western and Eastern Conferences, that’s not for sure.  What about home-road games?  Both teams have played one more home game than road game.

Who knows?  April may bring Melo blossoms for the Knicks and portend great things in seasons to come.  Advanced performance measures from Pro-Basketball Reference such as Player Efficiency, Win Shares, and Win Shares per 48 minutes don’t give great hope to Knicks fans.  These suggest that Carmelo is a gifted player, but not among the 10 or 20 best ever for whom you might consider giving away the farm.

It is also a reminder that while the media often fawns over the huge name, performance always depends on the value given up.  This is true even in basketball where one player’s contribution is very large.  It holds even more for sports with many more players contributing.  To some writers, the Rangers’ loss of Cliff Lee without signing some other big name signals decline.  Yet, they were in first place when they acquired Lee.  As a Rangers fan, I was concerned about what the signing of Lee would mean in terms of the acquisition or retention of several players over the long haul



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Author: Brian Goff

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