While the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors lead their respective NBA conferences in the standings as expected, and household names lead the race for most valuable player, players both unexpected and anticipated have captured national attention.
Three of those players, however, can expect to see mitigated production the rest of the way.
Many have posited that there were numerous options more deserving than Anthony for replacing Kevin Love in Sunday’s All-Star Game. Despite the vocal opposition, Anthony — who again leads the New York Knicks in scoring — garnered his 12th all-star appearance in 15 years.
As is often the case, Carmelo is largely a high-volume shooter and one-man wrecking crew on the offensive end, scoring 0.998 of a point per possession, which places him in the 70th percentile, according to data provided by Synergy Sports. Only three players — Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins and James Harden — have attempted more field goals this season.
His true shooting percentage (54.6) is peaking — if barely — over his career mark (54.5). As his plus-minus marks have indicated over the past week, however, Anthony’s overall play will likely decline in the post-ASG section of the season.
Anthony’s 7.6 free throw attempts per 100 possessions is by far the lowest mark of his career, nearly three attempts below his career average. When shots begin to drift, the best in the NBA are capable of getting to the charity stripe. Anthony’s inability to do so has been costly this season: New York is 7-10 when he takes fewer than three free throws. That’s been the case for Anthony and the Knicks twice in the past three games, both losses.
Regression to the mean can be expected from Anthony’s production behind the arc. He’s hoisting the second-most three-pointers per 100 possessions (8.3) of his career and shooting three percentage points higher than his career average (37.8 compared to 34.8). In seven games this month, he has busted out his “three to the head” celebration plenty, having drilled a whopping 46.5 percent of his looks, a season-high split that if maintained over an entire season would rank in the top 40 all time. Now, if this were a breakout player in his third year in the NBA, it’d be one thing; but since Anthony is 32 years old, and has spent 14 seasons in the league, it’s another.
His plus-minus average in February is minus-13.9, by far a season low, as is his 104.1 offensive rating and 8.3 rebound percentage. Anthony’s per-contest averages in points, rebounds and assists plummeted, too. Additionally, center Kristaps Porzingis saw a higher usage rate this month, a trend that will likely continue.
The former sixth man of the year is playing the best basketball of his career — and likely because of that fact, he has been tagged in trade rumors.
Williams, mind you, ranks 14th in Player Efficiency Rating (24.1), ahead of Stephen Curry, John Wall and Kyle Lowry, all of whom were voted into the All-Star Game.
The league leader in bench scoring is shooting a career-best 38.6 percent from three-point territory while also posting career-high marks in true shooting percentage (60.9), usage (30.6), scoring (37.5 points per 100 possessions) and Box Plus-Minus (2.5).
That scorching stat line touches all areas of the court. Williams is shooting above league average in points per shot from the restricted area, in the paint, and on left- and right-corner three-pointers.
Whether these marks are sustainable should he be dealt is obviously unknown. But even if he sticks in Los Angeles, it will be difficult for Williams to continue registering nearly a third of his looks with coverage defined by NBA.com as “open.”
Williams enters the break on 14 consecutive games scoring at least 15 points and it’s clear that the Lakers are turning him into an offensive fixture, as evidenced by his season-high usage rate in February (32.4). But it’s not exactly been fruitful, considering his offensive rating (106.9) is the lowest it has been since October and Los Angeles is 2-5.
Otto Porter Jr.
One of the NBA’s biggest surprise stories has been the emergence of Washington’s small forward.
Among players who have logged action in at least 40 games this season, the 23-year-old is the most efficient scorer in the league, piling up 1.227 points per possession, according to data provided by Synergy Sports.
Suddenly, a guy who had never eclipsed 37 percent from three-point land leads the NBA at 46.5 percent. “I think Otto Porter, the way he’s shooting the three, is a big part of their success recently,” Atlanta Coach Mike Budenholzer told The Post’s Candace Buckner.
He ranks 23rd in Real Plus-Minus, ahead of more esteemed teammates John Wall and Bradley Beal, and has been staggeringly efficient thus far.
Try these on for size:
— Porter ranks in the 99th percentile in points per possession on spot-up looks (1.417).
— Porter ranks in the 98th percentile in points per possession on jump shots taken in the halfcourt (1.262).
— Porter ranks between the 91st and 100th percentiles in points per possession on short, medium and long shots taken in the halfcourt.
As fellow Wizard Kelly Oubre Jr. put it, “He’s one of the best shooters in this league, man. So people keep sleeping, we keep getting points and the team keeps getting wins.”
If maintained, he would become the eighth player in NBA history to shoot at least 46 percent from deep while attempting more than 4.5 three-pointers per contest. Only six players in league history have produced a true shooting percentage higher than 65 while taking that many three-pointers; Porter could make it seven.
A dip should be anticipated if for no other reason than the league is beginning to notice him. Last month, for example, Memphis’s Tony Allen said he “didn’t even know he was on the scouting report.” Since Porter can’t create his own looks on a consistent basis, he’s reliant on Wall and Beal to manufacture catch-and-shoot looks for him. More than 43 percent of his received passes have come off the hands of Wall, and he takes a staggering 62 percent of his total shots with either “open” or “wide open” coverage, as defined by NBA.com. That split is unlikely to continue.
February has yielded plenty of points for Porter, but his three-point shot is the worst it has been since November. It might just be a sign that the former Georgetown star — and his blistering season — is returning to Earth.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated and VICE, among other publications. He’s been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.