Knicks' Carmelo Anthony opens up his outside shot

Knicks' Carmelo Anthony opens up his outside shot
September 19, 2013, 9:15 am
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Mark Strotman

Consider, for a moment, some of the best individual moves in the NBA: A Derrick Rose up-and-under layup; a LeBron James transition dunk; a Ray Allen corner 3-pointer; a Tim Duncan bank shot; a Rajon Rondo assist on the fast break.

Of all those memorable moves, perhaps none are more well-known or as successful as a Carmelo Anthony midrange jumper.

The 29-year-old All-Star has made a living off spotting up at either elbow and draining shot after shot, helping him average 25.0 points per game during his illustrious 10-year career. They aren't the highest percentage shots, but ever since his Syracuse days he's been prone to find open jumpers via shot fakes, post-ups and in transition.

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Anthony has long been one of the best pure scorers in the game -- he's never averaged fewer than 20 points in a season -- but this past season he added a new dimension to his game that resulted in a career-best PER of 24.8, fourth best in the NBA behind LeBron James (31.7), Kevin Durant (28.4) and Chris Paul (26.4).

Through nine seasons Anthony had been an average 3-point shooter, averaging 0.8 makes per game at a 32.2 percent clip. He peaked in 2010-11, when he averaged 1.2 makes at a 37.8 percent clip for the Nuggets and Knicks, but that midrange jumper had always taken center stage.

That wasn't the case in his first full season under Mike Woodson. The up-tempo Knicks made a league-best 10.9 3-pointers per game and were fourth in the league in efficiency, making almost 38 percent of their attempts. And in the middle of their prowess was Anthony, who exploded behind the arc, averaging a career-highs in 3-pointers per game (2.3), attempts (6.2) and percentage (37.9 percent).

He peaked on Jan. 27 against the Atlanta Hawks, when he drained 9-of-12 3-pointers, scoring 42 points to the the Knicks to a 106-104 win. Ironically he didn't make one in the decisive fourth quarter, but he did score nine points and finished a three-point play with 12 seconds to play to give New York the victory.

But his season wasn't all peaks and valleys. In 67 games, Anthony recorded at least one 3-pointer in all but eight games (88 percent of games). To put that in perspective, Steph Curry set the all-time record for 3-pointers in a season and failed to make a three in four games. And to put that number into his career perspective, in 2011-12 Anthony made 3-pointers in 39 of 55 games (71 percent), and in 2010-11 he made 3-pointers in just 44 of 77 games (57 percent). His consistency from beyond the arc -- and his career-best efficiency -- allowed him to earn his first career scoring title, edging out Kevin Durant, who had won the last three seasons.

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Anthony is entering his prime, and his numbers from beyond the arc should continue to rise. But both he and the Knicks know that necessarily won't be the answer to knocking off the Heat, Bulls and Pacers on their way to an NBA championship. Anthony never relied on the 3-pointer, but his deficiencies were seen in the playoffs, when he made just 17-of-57 3-pointers (29.8 percent) against the Celtics and Pacers -- that included combined 0-of-12 shooting performances in Game 4 and Game 5 losses to Boston.

As it pertains to the Bulls, Tom Thibodeau's group was one of the best teams in the NBA corralling Anthony from beyond the arc. Yes, he averaged 34.7 points in three games, but his 27.8 percent mark from deep was third best of the 11 teams Anthony played three or more games against last year (Philadelphia, Indiana). Another season of Jimmy Butler progressing, as well as the wildcard of Tony Snell and even Mike Dunleavy, should help the Bulls keep Anthony at bay.