Oscar Robertson Is Right About Carmelo And The Knicks

Oscar Robertson, who is the highest order of NBA great and disagreeable sumbitch, went on SiriusXM NBA radio today and said that Carmelo Anthony should definitely leave the Knicks. There are a number of reasons why Melo should or should not leave New York, but Oscar actually hit a big one square in the face.

Here's Robertson on SiriusXM:

"I would leave today [if I were Carmelo]," Roberston said on SiriusXM NBA radio Thursday. "... Let me tell you why: wherever that kid has gone, when he was at Denver, they had a team that fooled around with the ball, fooled around with the ball, then all of the sudden when they needed a basket, threw it to Carmelo. Then, when he shot the ball, they said he shot too much. Then when he didn't shoot they said he didn't shoot enough.

Now, anyone who watched very many Knicks games this year knows this to be true. But how true it is is actually astonishing. Last week, we ran a piece using data from Synergy Sports on which players in the league are best late in the shot clock (you can read it in full below). Along with LeBron, Carmelo graded out way ahead of everyone else in terms of how often he was forced to bail out the offense late in the clock. Here's the chart of league leaders:

Across the league, shots in the last four seconds of the shot clock are far worse than a regular shot. The difference is 12.9 points per 100 possessions this season, or, basically the difference between the league-best offense (Clippers) and the league-worst (the 76ers). The Knicks had 1,068 of these shots—seventh most in the league—of which Carmelo took 30.5 percent. And he spent 15.6 percent of all his plays taking these damn shots. Thing is, he was good at them (86.6 points per 100 possessions). So good that he dragged the Knicks' overall late-clock efficiency (83.8 points per 100) up to third best in the league.


This hasn't always been the case for Melo, if you were wondering. He was never that high on the list as a Nugget (Kobe and LeBron and usual suspects like Hawks-era Joe Johnson typically took more late-clock shots). As soon as he got to New York in 2010-11, though, he went from spending 6 percent of his plays in Denver on late-clock situations (and 5.6 percent the year before) to 9.3 in New York. His percentage has climbed every year since—and remember, that first year and a half was under human amphetamine Mike D'Antoni. (To what extent the team's clock-chewing habit is a product of Anthony's own ball-holding proclivities is a question for another day.) In a way, it's absolutely insane that Anthony managed to trudge through that kind of offensive stagnation to post two of his most statistically productive seasons. But it's also no damn way to live.

So, the way things have been going with the Knicks, and given the state of the roster and cap flexibility going forward, you'd have to agree with Oscar on at least this one point. If Carmelo has had enough of this shit, he should get out of town.

Image by Sam Woolley, original photos by Getty Images

Chart by Reuben Fischer-Baum

Which NBA Players Are Best Late In The Shot Clock?

You know the feeling. The post has been fronted, or the cutter bumped off course, or the screen jumped and the slip covered, or maybe whatever the hell happened here, unmercifully, is happening again. NBA offenses get clogged up for lots of reasons, and when the shot clock is winding down, someone's left holding the bag. Usually, that means putting up a bad shot. But not always. Here, we take a look at who's the best at making something out of nothing, and which teams are the best at forcing you into that nothing to begin with.

(All data via Synergy Sports; current as of Monday, April 14.)

Below is a chart of the top 100 players by plays per game when the shot clock is under four seconds:

We'll just note up top that these last-second possessions don't gauge "clutch" performance so much as a player's ability to be efficient within very narrow time constraints.

Now, this is an inherently noisy stat, for a few reasons. For one, better offenses will avoid these kinds of shots, so bad units will have more "opportunities" to hit them. That's why our chart of the top 100 players is loaded with Bulls and Bucks. It also doesn't quite capture everything bad about an offense that is inept at creating shots, because turnovers end a possession before it can get into a late-clock situation, and we decided to not factor in 24-second violation TOVs, because there's too much overlap with shots that go up, but don't hit iron.

Still, this is telling for a number of reasons. First, league-wide, average play in just halfcourt offense is 90.4 points per 100 possessions. In late-shot-clock situations, the average is 77.5 points per 100 possessions. Those 12.9 points represent a massive difference. It's roughly the difference between the best offense in the NBA (the Clippers, scoring 109.5 points per 100 possessions) and the worst (Philadelphia, at 96.7 points per 100).


The top and bottom of this list make perfect sense, as the Heat's (at times) swarming perimeter defense and the Blazers' fuck-all defense make them obvious outliers. Others along the top and bottom make sense as well, though these aren't score-adjusted for blowouts, where opposing teams could either be in a rush to catch up, or have scrubs in who are being stifled.

LeBron James

LeBron is absurd in a lot of ways, but this is ridiculous. The Heat have played at a slower pace each of the past three years, and this year they're taking late-clock shots on 13.7 percent of their possessions, the fourth-highest share in the league, behind Memphis, Chicago, and Utah. This is not good; late shots are inherently less efficient shots. So how is Miami still the second-most efficient offense in the league, overall? LeBron, basically.


Of the Heat's massive number of late-clock plays, LeBron is responsible for 31.2 percent of them. This is the highest percentage of any team's late-clock possessions for a single player. And not only that, at 0.93 points per possession, he's miles ahead of the league average of 0.78 points per possession. Among players with at least 100 of these possessions, he's 12th in efficiency, and he's taken 347. Put another way: LeBron is more efficient with less than four seconds on the clock than Paul George and Tim Duncan (both right around 0.92) are in the halfcourt.

With Dwyane Wade missing a big chunk of the season, LeBron has taken on a huge amount of offense, and he's kept the Heat attack rolling, the way he used to for Cleveland. It also helps that in his fourth year in Miami, Bosh has become a reliable outlet valve, ranking near the top of the league in efficiency for late shots (0.98 points per possession), and remaining a deadly spot-up shooter from midrange.

Kemba Walker

Kemba's presence on the high end of the list outwardly doesn't make a whole lot of sense. On one hand, sure, the Bobcats don't have a ton of players who can create their own shots, so they fall to Kemba. On the other, holy crap, all Kemba does is take long jumpers from the wing, after the Charlotte offense breaks down, or after he or Ramon Sessions has pounded the ball flat. But somehow he makes them, at a high enough clip to rate well (0.837 points per possession, well above league average).


Carmelo Anthony

This is some of the more compelling evidence of just how put-upon Melo has been in New York. He's taken the second-most attempts overall (321), and no player except LeBron has taken such a large share of team's attempts (30.5 percent). He's been so good at this, and so prolific, that the Knicks' offense in late-clock situations is only 9.1 points per 100 possession worse than its overall halfcourt offense. Their late-clock efficiency (84.1 points per possession) is the third-best mark in the league.

Courtney Lee

Courtney Lee is interesting, because he's such a high outlier for efficiency here. The Grizzlies overall are about average for these possessions, but Zach Randoph is way down at 0.61 points per possession, and takes up a good amount of the Grizzlies' plays. Once the ball finds its way out of the post on late shots, the Grizzlies aren't exactly well-oiled, but it's a controlled sort of chaos that can often get Lee an open shot along the perimeter. Or maybe Lee's just really good at this. He put up excellent marks in a limited number of these plays in Boston.


Kevin Love

The Timberwolves lose more points per possession than any other team in these situations, dropping 20.5 points per 100 possessions when they're forced late into the clock. Kevin Love hasn't managed to make a big dent, settling in right behind Rudy Gay in attempts—and efficiency.

Some other things of note:

  • Philadelphia has the second-fewest late-clock shots—a good sign!—at 7.2 percent of their overall possessions, but is still dead last, by a Pennsylvania mile, in overall offensive efficiency. This is funny. Philly is doing things right (Hi, Sam!), but they are still terrible at it.
  • The team with the widest spread of late-clock shot takers is, no real surprise, the Bucks. Brandon Knight is the lowest percentage-based leader for any team, taking only 12.7 percent of Milwaukee's late-clock attempts.
  • As a team, San Antonio fares the best, at 84.4 points per 100 possessions, just 7.9 points lower than its regular half-court average, and the second-smallest dropoff of any team (the Lakers have the smallest, at 7 points per 100).
  • The reason you don't see Steph Curry, or any other Warrior, on this list is that Golden State has the fewest late-clock plays in the league. Curry himself has only 95 to his name (he's good for an above-league-average .81 points per possession), but the best way to be efficient in these plays is to simply avoid them altogether, and the Warriors have.
  • The Heat defense is forcing a massive amount of these shots, which, if they really have been coasting this year, is a terrifying prospect if they really do have another gear.


Charts by Reuben-Fischer Baum