The Nuggets are playing incredible basketball, the Knickerbockers are not

Over the weekend I watched Dennis Krause interview the great Sidney Moncrief.  He asked Moncrief a simple question.  “Why isn’t Sidney Moncrief in the Hall of Fame?”

Moncrief’s answer would have warmed my friend Professor Berri’s heart.  Moncrief basically replied that scoring is overvalued, that players with “all around games”, players “who rebound”, tend to get overlooked.  But, Moncrief claimed, those were the players who produced wins, not the scorers.  Exhibit A:  Carmelo Anthony.

So far, the New York Knicks’ acquisition of Carmelo Anthony has been a flop.  To this point, the Knicks are either worse off or no better with him than they were without him.  In March, New York’s Team-Opponent MWS is (45.60-48.55), which translates to an expected Winning Percentage of 0.450%.  Before Anthony came along, the team had an MWS of (47.84-46.04) for a better expected Winning Percentage of 0.520%. 

Sure, the Knicks are better at scoring the basketball with Anthony on the court, but that was never their problem.  Their problem has always been defense.  And with Anthony, the Knickerbockers are much worse at preventing their opponents from scoring.

But we’ve heard the New York story ad nauseum.  The real story of this trade has been the transformation of the Denver Nuggets.  The Nuggets have dumped their supposed best player and have become what looks like a reasonable facsimile of a championship contending team.

The Ides of March 

In the month of March, without Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets have compiled a phenomenal Team-Opponent MWS of (58.10-36.65), for an unbelievable expected Winning Percentage of 0.860% (the actual record is 7-3).   With Carmelo, the team had a Team-Opponent MWS of (48.22-46.39) for an expected Winning Percentage of 0.533%.  The Wicked Witch is dead in Denver.

MWS Charts

Below is a chart comparing the two teams with and without Melo in three key areas of team and opponent performance: (1) Scoring Effectiveness (Pts-FGAs-.5FTAs); (2) Possession Creation (Rebs + Stls – TOs); and (3) Net Helpers (.5Ass + .5Blks – .5PFs). 

To produce the fourth column, Team MWS, each of the aforementioned columns are subtracted vertically and then added horizontally. The resulting figure is then divided by 10 to get the team’s “Marginal Win Score”.   To produce the fifth column, expected W%, you divide MWS by 48, multiply that result by 1.621, add that result 0.1, divide that result by 48, multiply that result by 19780, and finally divide that result by 82, and you have the team’s expected Winning Percentage.

           
  Scor Eff Poss Cre Net Help Team MWS Exp W%
 
Den (W/out) 13.01 39.51 5.65    
Opp 2.95 30.31 3.35    
Net 10.06 9.21 2.29 2.156 0.859
           
Den (With) 12.74 33.65 1.83    
Opp 7.83 35.67 2.89    
Net 4.91 -2.02 -1.06 0.183 0.533
           
NY (With) 12.21 31.81 1.59    
Opp 12.15 33.81 2.59    
Net 0.06 -2.01 -0.99 -0.291 0.451
           
NY (W/out) 9.73 34.48 6.72    
Opp 8.21 36.65 2.43    
Net 1.52 -2.17 4.29 0.364 0.564

As you can see, the Nuggets are substantially improved in every single key area of winning basketball except for “opponent Net Helpers”.  (That is because they do not draw as many fouls without Anthony.)  

The most shocking result, I guess, is that their offense has actually been more efficient, even without having the benefit of Anthony’s ball-hogging, err.. usage. 

Beyond that their defense has been light years better, and they have created far more net possessions, and — gee whiz — they’ve been reindoctrinated to the art of the pass.  All of that has meant huge success in the mountains. (like the guy who quit smoking and realized, “Why didn’t I do this much earlier?”).

As for the Knicks, as I wrote above, their offense is better, but their defense is much worse.  Their possession creation is down, but that is a result of a slower, half court game.  Thus their Net Possessions are about even.  Where they are really suffering is in the “Net Helpers”. 

Prior to Anthony, the Knicks were an outstanding ball movement team, with him, the ball seems to have gotten a bit sticky.

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2 Responses to “The Nuggets are playing incredible basketball, the Knickerbockers are not”

  1. arturogalletti Says:

    Ty,
    Great post as always. You gotta remember one thing though:The Knicks need a training camp to adapt to this change. It’s hard to get that immediate benefit out of ballho… high usage players.

    At least that’s the talking point on ESPN.

    Funny how the Nuggets don’t need a training camp to play better D, offense and all around game.

  2. winniepoo Says:

    Great post Ty and love the comment Arturo. This reconfirms what we would have expected to happen from the trade.

    The talking heads at ESPN love making excuses when the results don’t fit the expectation instead of actually analyzing what is actually going on.

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