Carmelo Anthony enjoyed arguably the most impactful game of his Thunder tenure on Wednesday night against the Lakers. He finished with 27 points on 10/15 shooting — one-point shy of his season-high despite sitting for the entirety of the fourth quarter. What’s more, he took control and got aggressive after a poor first half by the Thunder as a whole, shooting 4/7 in the third quarter and helping spark the run that put the game on ice.
In his post-game media session, Melo made it clear that accepting his role on this Thunder team is leading to success — and also contributing to an uptick in the amount of fun he’s having. His quote:
“Once you accept something, regardless of what it is, I think you become comfortable with it. You start putting your all into it, you start working on that role and on that acceptance, and it becomes fun. I think right now, after accepting that role, I think early in December, the game is starting to become fun again for me, fun for us as a team.”
The statement is interesting for a number of reasons, perhaps most notably the idea of fun on a Thunder team that has too often appeared lacking in that department. But his notion of being more accepting of his role since December got me thinking: Has his approach really changed that much since then, and if so — by how much?
Below is a look at his basic numbers when splitting the season into those two sections. For clarity’s sake, the Thunder had 20 games prior to December 1 but Melo missed one due to injury.
Outside of a sizable dip in point production and an unforeseen drop in attempts from long range/fairly steady rate of two-point attempts, the way he’s been utilized in the Thunder offense since December 1 appears to be about the same as before according to those numbers. However, they don’t tell the full story.
Although he could boost the Thunder attack by taking fewer two-pointers (he’s still taking roughly the same amount as before) the quality of his shots have improved as a whole. That means — you guessed it — he actually is taking a significant amount fewer of the isolation attempts we clamored about for the first part of the season.
Melo took 83 isolation shots in his first 19 games of the season, or 4.4 per contest. Over the last 25 games, he’s taken 62 shots out of an isolation approach — about 2.5 per game. For those not counting at home, that’s roughly two fewer per contest. It’s a small number on paper but is tremendous improvement in the ongoing attempt to unlock the Thunder offense.
His isolation numbers:
|SPAN||GAMES||ISO FGA||ISO FGM||ISO FGA/GM||ISO FG%|
Taking fewer and making them more frequently. You can live with that.
Melo is averaging 3.3 isolation FGA per game — good for seventh-most in the NBA. However, he’s averaging just 2.5 per game since December 1, which would amount to a tie for 15th in the league on a per game basis. His final form in this offense would realistically be even lower than that, but it’s clearly trending in the right direction.
And for the final piece of my overly-charted-and-graphed puzzle, here are his isolation numbers by month:
|Month||GAMES||ISO FGA||ISO FG%||ISO FGA/GM|
Slight uptick so far in January but you’ll gladly take anything north of 45 percent. Russell Westbrook is taking 4.6 iso shots per game this season and making just 39.5 percent of them, for example.
All of that to say: It looks like Melo wasn’t lying when he said he is growing more comfortable with his role after accepting it. He started the season far too isolation-oriented, but is progressing as the 2017-18 campaign continues. He’s moving toward being the least of the Thunder’s concerns offensively if he keeps it up.