What Carmelo Anthony Might Have Cost the Bulls (besides money)

Posted on October 1, 2010 by


Can the Bulls win 60 games? Arturo Galletti has looked at some numbers and he thinks this is possible.   Of course, his analysis assumes the Bulls land Carmelo Anthony. 

Oops… I said that wrong. It presumes they don’t land Carmelo. 

Actually, he never mentions Melo. But I did a quick look at the numbers and I think

  • Arturo’s analysis of the current Bulls is reasonable (that doesn’t mean the Bulls are guaranteed 60 wins; only that if everyone stays healthy and maintains what they did in the past, 60 wins is certainly possible).
  • Adding Melo – at the cost of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah – would cost the Bulls about 10 wins.

To understand this argument, let’s first consider the Bulls from 2009-10.

The most productive players on the Bulls last season were Deng and Noah.  Of the team’s 36.8 Wins Produced, 19.1 – or over half – can be linked to these two players.  And Noah didn’t even play 2,000 minutes. 

Meanwhile, Anthony – as I noted last August (and many times before that, and also since then) – is overrated. Yes, he can score.  But his scoring is primarily due to his willingness to take many shots. He is not a particularly efficient scorer. And he doesn’t help out much with any other facet of the game.   Consequently, we should not be surprised that Melo only posted a 0.108 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes]. 

As one can see, Deng did more last year.  So just trading Deng for Anthony doesn’t help.  To throw Noah – the most productive players on the Bulls last year — into the mix makes this trade even worse.  And when you consider the Bulls roster, which really doesn’t have a center besides Noah (Kurt Thomas is slated to be the back-up center), then it became clear that trading Noah and Deng for Melo would have been a bad idea. 

Again, I think such a trade would cost the Bulls about 10 wins.  What is interesting about that scenario is that it means the Bulls might be better with Melo this year than they were last year.  Chicago won 41 games in 2009-10.  As currently constituted, Arturo (and I) think 60 wins are possible.  That means, with Melo (and Carlos Boozer), the Bulls might win 50 games.  Would that be enough for people to think Melo helped? 

Let me repeat what I said yesterday:

If Melo is trades in the next few days (or weeks), the Melo’s new coach can expect the following to happen:

  • Expectations – as Tom Sunnergren at Philadunkia argues – will be sky high.
  • The team will fail to meet these expectations (because Melo is really not that productive).
  • The coach will get fired (quicker than he would otherwise be fired).

In sum, any head coach who gets Anthony should be dismayed.  Chances are he won’t be (because I expect most coaches buy the conventional wisdom on scorers like Anthony).  But nevertheless, he should be.

Now, let me amend what I said yesterday.  If your team already added quite a bit of talent, then adding Carmelo Anthony will just fuel the belief that Melo is really a great player.  One suspects that if Chicago acquired Melo and improved by 10 wins in the standing, people would think Carmelo Anthony is really a great player.

Let me close by noting an article on Red Auerbach by Beckley Mason.  One suspects — after reading this article — that Auerbach wouldn’t have been fooled by Carmelo Anthony.  Consider the following quote (from something I posted three years ago and very similar to what Mason noted):

Auerbach said that the Celtics represent a philosophy that in its simplest form maintains that victory belongs to the team. “Individual honors are nice, but no Celtic has ever gone out of his way to achieve them,” he said. “We have never had the league’s top scorer. In fact, we won seven league championships without placing even one among the league’s top 10 scorers. Our pride was never rooted in statistics.”

Given these quotes, it appears Auerbach would not have traded a player like Joakim Noah (a productive non-scorer) for Anthony (an unproductive scorer).  And if Auerbach would have passed (and I think he would have), why are so many teams so anxious to trade so much for Melo?

– DJ