Liston on Knicks: The MVP case for Carmelo

December 20, 2012, 3:41 PM

The buzz out of New York early in the season has been about the play of Carmelo Anthony as the Knicks and the local media seem to be pushing the Broadway star for the MVP award already.

Well, of course, it’s way too early to talk about the MVP race but it is worth highlighting just how improved Anthony has performed this season.

Anthony has often had the “overrated” tag applied to him by the analytical community. Generally viewed as a high-volume scorer (i.e. low efficiency) that doesn’t involve his teammates in the offense, nor does he have a positive contribution on defense (see on/off court DefRtg at basketballvalue.com at 82games.com or Advanced Statistical Plus/Minus.)

The Knicks have surprised many (including myself, who predicted they would be the biggest flop for this year) so far this year and currently boast a .750 winning percentage, tied for second in the league. This is a marked improvement over the .545 winning percentage a year ago. While we could make a strong case that much of this is due to a very overrated Amare Stoudemire not playing, I will admit Anthony is making large strides so far this year versus his historical play:

On most metrics, Anthony is well ahead of career averages. Most impressive in his very high usage rate while shooting efficiently. Given limited alternatives on offense, Anthony can often be double-teamed. Historically, high usage usually leads to a decline in shooting efficiency.

Carmelo also has the 10th-highest field-goal attempts per game from “long 2″ (i.e. 16 to 23 feet from the basket). Usually, this is the zone any good defense tries to give you — it’s the most ineffective shot. The average player shoots 38 percent here. Thus, high FGAs from this area are usually a negative sign. However, Anthony shoots an impressive 48 per cent from this region, which creates a positive dynamic for his team’s offense.

But how does he rank against prior MVPs?

Surprisingly well.

It is striking how similar many of the metrics are. Of course, it’s a long season and we will see if he can maintain this efficiency, especially with Stoudemire coming back into the lineup. I still consider Kevin Durant and LeBron James as frontrunners, but they also have a much better supporting cast.

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