“…the game is starting to become fun again for me, fun for us as a team.” That was a quote from Carmelo Anthony following the Thunder’s 114-90 win over the Lakers on Wednesday night. After half a season of uncertainty Oklahoma City is starting to click going 12-5 in the last month after a 14-15 start. A big part of that is because Anthony has accepted his role with the team, and he’s starting to excel in it.
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MELO will go down as one of the best scorer’s the league has ever seen. Just 40 points shy of 25K for his career most of those buckets from Anthony have come in iso situations where he will fire up one of his iconic pull-up jumpers.
WHEN the Thunder traded for him this offseason it was clear that ‘Iso-Melo’ wasn’t going to be a big contributor in OKC and instead ‘catch-and-shoot-Melo’ would have to take his place. Obviously, this would be a massive change for Anthony and one that we weren’t sure was going to work after watching the first few months of the season. During his time in the NBA, that wasn’t exactly the Carmelo Anthony we had all become accustomed to seeing. It just didn’t seem like it was in his DNA. In Olympic competition though…
WITH more career points for US Basketball than anyone else, Anthony thrived almost as a forgotten option on offensive units that saw as the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant demand all the attention. Flourishing as the third or fourth best player on those team’s Melo was expected to fit into a similar role with the Thunder this season. As he, Paul George and Russell Westbrook struggled to carve out their roles in the offense, things weren’t working out early on. It may have been foolish to have such little patience as OKC refound their mojo towards the end of 2017 and are looking more dangerous than ever.
AS it stands now, Anthony is taking over 40% of his shots this season in catch and shoot situations and in the month of January he is actually taking more catch and shoot jumpers (42.9%) than pull-up ones (40.0%). To understand that better over the last four years with New York, 27.7% of all his shots came in catch and shoot situations and 43.9% were pull up jumpers. His percentages have continued to climb despite the fact he averages just 30.7 minutes a night in January. The last time Anthony had a month where he played fewer than 31 minutes a game was all the way back in March of the 2004-05 season.
ALL those numbers can get confusing so what do they really mean? In fewer minutes and in more catch and shoot situations Melo is scoring in a more efficient way. Playing alongside Westbrook and George was always going to be a steep learning curve and Anthony’s new role means his days as the true No. 1 option might be behind him.
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WHILE his per game numbers will no doubt take a hit, Melo buying into this role with OKC makes them a scary team moving forward. Nine games might seem like a small sample size, but as OKC started to figure things out in the middle of December it’s no coincidence that Anthony’s efficiency and catch and shoot numbers were on the rise.
UNLOCKING the spot up shooter version of Anthony makes them much more dynamic offensively moving forwards. Considering the Thunder are one of the best defensive teams in the league it may be the key that helps them fight for a top-four seed in the West.
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