Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carmelo's Shots Blocked

I've been out of town for the weekend. It's amazing what a few days cut off from the Internet leaves in your Google Reader and RSS feeds, especially this breaking news that Kendrick Perkins signed with Boston for less than $800K.

What's also amazing is how a largely objective article in the sports world causes readers to scream for the firing of a writer as well as the boycott of the world leader in sports. Tom Haberstroh over at ESPN Insider had a great article a few days ago about Carmelo Anthony being an inefficient offensive player and not worthy of a max contract (in a Joe Johnson-less world). He presented pretty strong evidence that Carmelo is at least not one of the top 5 current players in the NBA, if you take his offensive ratings, the Nuggets' pace factor, and his sheer number of shots taken (wasted?) into account. Sure, Haberstroh's article may come across as written in order to belittle some of the conventional statistics that Carmelo Anthony has piled upon himself since 2003, but it's not like he's claiming that Carmelo should be riding the bench, just that he isn't as elite as fans and the media glorify him to be. It's pretty disconcerting how many readers can get offended by a statistical look at things so easily, but that is a barrier that we have to break in order to get a larger portion of the sports world to understand the usefulness of new, perceptive statistics that take context into account. It adds to our understanding of sports from what we watch through our eyes, not replaces it.

One of the things that Haberstroh mentioned about Carmelo was that he "got his shot blocked a whopping 109 times last season, which ranks as the second-highest total in the league, according to" I've been looking at blocks data in quite a bit of detail, and I thought I'd take a look at Carmelo's blocked shots on the offensive end.


A quick look at the 2006-2010 dataset shows that Carmelo got his shot blocked (at least) 373 times, which, as Haberstroh mentioned for the past season, is second-highest in the league during the past four years. That's 1.35 blocks per game. Only 31 players have averaged at least 1.35 blocks per game on the defensive end since 2006, so Carmelo is almost doing opposing defenses a favor by allowing his shots to be easily blocked. Considering that many of the players on the top 10 list of shots blocked include power forwards or centers, who understandably take a lot of shots at rim, Carmelo gets his shots blocked at an abnormally high rate for a high usage small forward.

I looked at my blocks by shot location model as well as my blocks by shot type model to take a deeper look at Carmelo's shots that were blocked (if anyone knows a less awkward way of wording this stat in order to differentiate it from its defensive counterpart, let me know). Carmelo lost 405.26 points by blocks based on shot location, which comes out as 1.09 points lost per block. If you consider that of the top 20 players with the most blocked shots on the defensive end in the past four years, 13 of them saved more than 1.09 points per block, not only does Carmelo have the second most shots allowed to be blocked, but he may have also been among the league leaders of points lost per block allowed.

Looking at blocks by shot type might be even more telling. According to Basketball Geek's PbP dataset, Carmelo had 3 threes blocked, 8 dunks blocked, 109 jump shots blocked, and a whopping 253 layups blocked in the past four years. It all totals out to approximately 1.00 lost points per shot blocked based on shot type (most of the top shot blockers also save approximately 1.00 points per shot). However, Carmelo's had 59 driving layups blocked, good for second most in the NBA. With driving layups worth about 1.46 points per shot, that's quite a bit of high percentage shots that Carmelo allowed to get away. Carmelo is one of three players to be both in the top 11 of jump shots blocked and layups blocked, with the generic jumper worth 0.69 PPS and the generic layup being worth 0.91 PPS. Carmelo only had 6 dunks blocked though, a category of blocked shots that goes as high as 25 in the past four years (Emeka Okafor). Finally, Carmelo is one of four players in the top 10 of shots being blocked on the offensive end without even ranking in the top 120 in blocks on the defensive end.

Carmelo may do a lot of things well on the offensive end because of his athleticism, durability (at least in a minute-by-minute basis), and points-scoring. But he is most definitely not among the league leaders in offensive efficiency, and has several teammates in Denver who shoot the ball more efficiently than he does. If Carmelo can take better and more efficient shots (which includes getting blocked less), he may yet become one of the stars in the NBA. Until then, the team that gives him a long-term max contract in 2011 may regret it if they're basing it on Carmelo's past performance and if he continues to heave a high volume of inefficient shots.


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