You’ve probably heard that Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony dropped 90 points in his past two games, leading his club to victories over Miami and Atlanta. Only mild surprise there: the focal point of the Knicks’ offense all season, Anthony ‘s 28.1 points per game trails Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant for the league lead by a just a whisker.
Except, Anthony isn’t Durant. Despite making about $2.7 million more this season, he isn’t even close. Durant gets his points taking four fewer shots per game than Anthony does (18 vs. 22). He shoots 50.5% from the floor to Anthony’s 44%. Durant averages 4.4 assists per game compared to Anthony’s 2.6, and 7.9 rebounds to Anthony’s 6.4.
As the new breed of statistical analysts like to point out, a primary scorer using extra shots to get his points means fewer shots for others (and hence fewer chances for additional points for the team). Assists lead directly to points, and every rebound gives your team a possession, which means a chance to score. Durant, in short, is an efficient player whose numbers translate into wins for his club. The same is true for LeBron James, Chris Paul and Tim Duncan. But not for Carmelo Anthony. And that’s why, at a 2012-13 salary of $19.4 million, Anthony tops our list as the NBA’s most overpaid player.
Following closely behind: Charlotte Bobcats’ guard Ben Gordon ($12.4 million; -2.1 wins produced), Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson ($19.75 million; 1.5 wins produced) and Orlando Magic guard Helo Turkoglu ($11.8 million; -0.6 wins produced). The pattern is pretty clear: scorers that don’t do other things well and that don’t shoot a solid percentage from the field tend to be overvalued.
TheNBAGeek.com, a website run by Patrick Minton that features the work of Southern Utah economics professor David Berri, attempts to translate players’ efficiencies into what’s known as wins produced - largely how many possessions a player gains for his team during a typical game, and how many of his own scoring opportunities he’s cashing in. The model probably isn’t perfect, but the gist of it makes sense – a player taking a lot of shots to score while doing little in the way of passing or rebounding isn’t helping to win many games.
A note on making judgment calls for hurt players: we generally didn’t include strong players that have missed significant time with injuries recently, like Derrick Rose or Amare Stoudemire. But we did include those that have has trouble staying healthy for extended periods (at some point you need to show you can stay on the court), or whose performance had been fading for awhile anyway (like Hedo Turkoglu).
Anthony certainly had the efficiency numbers going in his two recent big games, shooting 18-for-26 against Miami and 17-for-27 against Atlanta. But just as common were two other recent games: an 11-for-28 night with zero assists against Charlotte on March 29, preceded by a 10-for-30 night with one assist against Boston on March 26.
Add it all up, and Anthony’s big scoring season and $19.4 million salary has produced less than one full win (0.7) for the Knicks, whose biggest contributor to a 48-26 record is center Tyson Chandler (10 points and 11 rebounds a game while shooting 64%). And for the record, Durant and James, premium scorers that are also efficient and multifaceted, have both contributed over 18 wins to their respective clubs, according to the numbers. No, Anthony is no Durant. He’s not even Tyson Chandler.