Carmelo Anthony is a big guy at 6’8” and 230 pounds, but he doesn’t play like it. Even though he played in just 67 games, no small forward took more jumpers than Melo in the playoffs and regular seasons combined. His points off jumpers accounted for 68.3 percent of his total field goals. He hasn’t been nearly as effective around the basket as LeBron and KD, making just 54.9 percent at the rim in the regular season. That percentage has also dropped in each of his three seasons with the Knicks while his attempts per game from that range have gone up.
The acquisition of Andrea Bargnani is expected to help alleviate Carmelo and give him more space on the court. As his heat map shows, he likes that baseline jumper and just about any mid-range shot. His field goals outside of the paint accounted for 59.5 percent of his makes, including his career-high 6.2 3-point attempts per game. Melo should put up big scoring numbers, but don’t expect him to improve on his 44.6 percent from the field.
Paul George is going to play more shooting guard this year with Danny Granger back. That said, it would be an injustice to not break him down. He ran away as the Most Improved Player last season, but his scoring efficiency isn’t there yet. He’s got the size and he counts on his jump shot more often that he should. He does take a lot of mid-range shots, an area in which he struggled, making just 27.8 percent on attempts from 3-9 feet.
Looking ahead, George is spending a lot of time working on being a pure scorer. He stated that last season he didn’t have the opportunity to be the main guy since Granger didn’t have surgery until October. In fact, DG even suited up for some preseason action. George is emphasizing conditioning in his offseason program. That suggests that he’s going to be asked to create more. It’s not easy to get to the basket in isolation and doing it repeatedly can test a player’s cardiovascular system. PG didn’t look tired often during his breakout season, so he’s probably up to the task. He should see a decent increase in his 41.9 percent from the field.
His shooting numbers really took a tumble in the second half of the season thanks to a nagging wrist injury. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field in 16 March games, pulling down his season shooting numbers to 42.3 percent. Batum has a watered-down Durant-style game and he counts on his jumper a little too much. That may be due to his lack of size, but he could still fill out his frame and have a better presence around the rim. A whopping 53.5 percent of his shots came from beyond the arc, which helps explain why Batum is in the mix as a late-first round pick in nine-cat leagues.
The nice thing about Batum is that he has room to operate. LaMarcus Aldridge led all players in shot attempts from 16-23 feet while Damian Lillard ranked fourth in 3-point attempts in his rookie season. Not to mention Wesley Matthews put up his fair share of shots from distance. It was nice to see him get to the hoop more often compared to previous seasons, as well. While becoming a more mature player is part of it, coach Terry Stotts likely had something to do with this and the coach could help more in his first full offseason with the team. The Frenchman should become a better all-around scorer and it’s more than fair to assume that he will improve in knocking down shots. There's a good chance he'll have at least a one-percent increase.
He marches to the beat of his own drum and most people wouldn’t object to saying he’s not elite, but hey, he’s worth discussing considering his massive defensive production. He’s far from that on offense, though. Even the name alone sends chills down the spines for any basketball fan that cares about true shooting percentage. His free throw shooting has been worse and he shot just 51.7 percent last season while his field goal percentage still is just hanging around at 46.5, and that was at power forward. This year, he’s going to shift to small forward. That’s a scary thought considering his lack of discipline on taking smart shots. Last preseason, he said he wants people to call “Mid-Range Shawty.” It turns out J-Smoove probably shouldn’t be allowed to make up his own nicknames. He shot just 32.2 percent on his attempts form 3-23 feet. Plus, his 3-point shooting of 29.9 percent more than eliminates that added bonus discussed in the intro.
The Pistons are going to attack the basket a lot and coach Mo Cheeks will have to come up with some floor-spacing ideas for the team. Early reports are that he’s going to use a backcourt rotation of Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups. Of the 96 minutes per game that will be played at both guard positions, Billups, the only one to have a career 3-point percentage greater than 35.5 percent, may see only 22 minutes per game. For what it's worth, Bynum and Stuckey are both below 29 percent, but Jennings improved to 37.5 percent last year. That means defenses are going to play a little tighter and force the Pistons to take more shots on the outside. Perimeter shots and Josh Smith don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly, so it might be tough for him to improve on his shooting. Be careful, folks.
Jeff Green is in an interesting position this year. While he’s a heck of a lot better than Kendrick Perkins, he’s nowhere near the upper echelon of small forwards... yet. The Georgetown product is going to have enough on his plate to make him need a few doggy bags this year. Boston’s offensive scheme will be one of the more interesting developments. The Celtics don’t really have any floor-spreading shooters on their team right now. In fact, Green, Courtney Lee and Keith Bogans are the only players on their roster to shoot over 30 percent from the 3-point land in the NBA last year. That’s pretty sad considering Bogans and Lee made 69 triples combined last year. It’s not a good formula and Green is probably going to take his lumps in shooting percentage this season. He himself was a good 3-point shooter alone, making 38.5 percent, but he did most of his damage in the corners. He’ll have to hit more triples from above the break, an area in which he shot just 31.4 percent compared to the 45.7 percent from the corner. He still needs some work around the basket and a lack of interior presence poses another challenge to his shooting numbers. He shot just 25.7 percent on shots from 3-9 feet.
While we’re on the subject, there is just too much opportunity for Green to be a star this season. It’s hard to believe that a guy that just had needed surgery for an aortic aneurysm back in December 2011 and he’s truly a great story. Doctor A is all in on Green and I’m with him. He’s probably my second favorite player to target after Jonas Valanciunas.