According to Mark J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
“Carmelo Anthony(notes) still hopes to persuade the Denver Nuggets to trade him, preferably to either the Chicago Bulls or New York Knicks, an NBA source with knowledge of Anthony’s wishes told Yahoo! Sports. The Knicks have limited assets to offer the Nuggets, which makes the Bulls a more appealing potential trade partner. The Bulls can offer a replacement small forward in Luol Deng, as well as two young forwards in James Johnson and Taj Gibson. New York officials would like to make a run at signing Anthony next summer if he were to opt to become a free agent. The Knicks will have salary-cap room with Eddy Curry’s contract expiring after the season.”
Spears further adds that ’Melo a) would like to be traded before the season starts and b) understands that he may not get his choice of destination (the Clippers, Nets and Rockets are all interested).
I think a lot of Bulls fans would love to flip Deng (and Gibson or Johnson) for Anthony. And on the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. I mean, here’s a guy who last season averaged 28.2 PPG (third in the league behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James), made the All-NBA Second Team(LeBron and KD were the First Team forwards), and finished sixth in MVP voting (a very distant sixth, but still).
And yet…I have my reservations. ‘Melo is high-volume scorer. No doubt about it. But many people are starting to realize he’s also somewhat of an inefficient gunner (ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh describes this in length).
Which begs the question: Is Anthony an upgrade from Deng?
I can hear the howls of dismay already, but bear with me for a minute. Yes, ‘Melo scores more than Deng (about 11 PPG more last season). But his Usage Rate is 33.4 (third in the league behind Dwyane Wade and LeBron) to Deng’s 21.9. Denver’s offense runs through Anthony, and he was carte blanche to shoot the ball. Not so for Luol.
Furthermore, Anthony shot the ball less efficiently than Deng. Last season, ‘Melo’s Effective Field Goal Percentage was .478, while Deng’s was .482. Not a huge, gaping difference, but the edge goes to Luol. And interestingly enough, Deng’s three-point percentage over the past three seasons (.364, .400, .386) is better than Anthony’s over that same stretch (.354, .371, .316). It might also be worth stating that Luol’s career field goal percentage (.474) is higher than Anthony’s (.459).
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that Deng is a better scorer. It’s clear that Anthony has the more complete offensive skill set. What I’m saying is that his shooting efficiency is lower than Deng’s and his PPG stats almost certainly benefit from extra looks.
It’s also interesting to note that Deng and Anthony both have a career Offensive Rating of 107 points scored per 100 possessions. However, Deng’s career Defensive Rating is 104, while ‘Melo’s is 107. So basically, over the course of his career, Anthony has given up as many points per 100 possessions as he has scored, while Deng is +3 PP100.
Furthermore, Deng is a better rebounder. Last season, Luol averaged 7.3 RPG to Anthony’s 6.2 RPG. But forget the raw numbers. Deng had a Defensive Rebounding Rate of 15.8 and a Total Rebounding Rate of 10.7. Anthony’s numbers were 13.1 and 9.9, respectively. ‘Melo did have an edge in Offensive Rebounding Rate (6.7 to 5.6), but that makes sense considering how dialed in Anthony is on the offensive end.
Extra offensive rebounds also may be a given since, as Haberstroh observed: “Anthony got his shot blocked a whopping 109 times last season, which ranks as the second-highest total in the league, according to Hoopdata.com.”
I could go on to point out that Deng has the advantage in some other advanced statistical categories (such as Block Percentage, Turnover Percentage and Defensive Win Shares). But I don’t want to beat a dead horse here. The theme is that advance stats show us that the gulf between ‘Melo and Deng may not be as wide as the raw numbers seem to indicate.
Again, I’m not necessarily saying that Deng is better than Anthony. And he certainly hasn’t been as healthy (although ‘Melo has missed at least 13 games in three of the last four seasons). But Anthony, for all his many scoring moves, is a volume shooter who is accustomed to lots of shots and a fast pace (the Nuggets were 5th in Pace Factor last season).
Ask yourself these questions: Is ‘Melo going to get volume shots in Chicago? Alongside Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer? Would Anthony be that much of an upgrade over Deng that it would be worth potentially sacrificing chemistry (there’s still only one ball) and giving up depth (probably Gibson)?
Maybe. But I’m not so sure.