That’s the Clippers’ record the last three years with Blake Griffin out of the lineup.
Chris Paul missed 13 of those same games. In the 70 games Paul played without Blake, the Clippers’ record was 47-23, good for a projected 55-win season.
Griffin is just not that valuable to the Clippers, but it’s not really his fault. His inside talent and muscle is highly duplicative alongside DeAndre Jordan, whose game tends to flourish in his absence.
Then there is this other record.
That’s the Knicks’ record during the 60 games Carmelo Anthony was not in the lineup over the last three years, known as the Phil Jackson Era.
Without Melo, Phil’s Knicks would be projected to win a whopping 12 games over a full season — a 15% winning percentage which would end up as ninth-worst in NBA history.
Phil should remember that — and this too:
Having the brilliant Chris Paul and a rebounding machine like DeAndre Jordan by your side really matters.
Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony share the same NBA blues — they have never played with each other, let alone with a quality substitute.
The only time Anthony was ever gifted a top point guard he led his Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. That point guard was Chauncey Billups.
Sadly, Paul has never even made it that far. The biggest reason? His career has lacked a highly skilled frontline scorer at or even near Melo’s level. In a pick-and-roll league, separating the Pauls from the Anthonys is a hoops tragedy.
Griffin is not the only NBA All-Star forward to recently miss a season’s worth of games.
In the last three years, Griffin, Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Indiana’s Paul George all missed 83-85 games. Such a large sample size provides a rarity of great information that far surpasses misleading “plus/minus” stats. Have a look:
Winning Percentages Without their All-Star Forward
61% – Blake Griffin’s Teammates (51-32)
54% – Kevin Durant’s Teammates (46-39)
44% – Paul George’s Teammates (37-47)
15% – Anthony’s Teammates (9-51)
And Paul George is frustrated with his supporting cast? Just stop.
No other great player in the NBA has been saddled with worse working conditions than Carmelo has — and it’s not even close.
The Clippers are nearly as good without Blake. Durant’s old Thunder team is still a playoff squad, and his new one won 73 games without him a year ago.
And then there is the great Anthony Davis — the NBA’s poster child for bad teammate luck.
In his first five seasons, the former No. 1 pick made the playoffs just once (a sweep), and never surpassed 34 wins in any other season. In the 75 games Davis has missed, here is how his teammates performed:
32% – Anthony Davis Teammates (24-51)
15% – Carmelo’s Teammates (9-51)
Yes, Carmelo even has it twice as bad as AD.
Despite the rough start, however, Davis has been cast as a sympathetic NBA figure. Here are some of the article titles about him recently.
– Washington Post: “Anthony Davis is a historically good player on a historically bad team”
– FiveThirtyEight: “Anthony Davis Has Been Great. So Why Are The Pelicans So Bad?”
– SB Nation: “The Pelicans have Anthony Davis, yet they stink. Here’s why”
Davis’s misfortune has been met with almost universal sorrow, analysis, and stat-splaining away the tragic waste of his immense young talent.
And that’s a good thing — because it is all so true.
But what about 9 and 51?
Where are all the violins for Carmelo?
When projected to 82 games, the Pelicans with Davis (146-189) improve 10 games, going from 26 to 36 wins, while Phil’s Knicks with Melo (71-115) jump from 12 wins to 31.
Melo improves Phil’s Knicks by 19 games. How many more should we expect?
The Melo-less Knicks are an incredible indictment of Phil’s arrogant belief that the triangle offense was more responsible for his 11 coaching titles than players named Michael, Scottie, Shaq and Kobe.
When all five Knick starters were on the floor this past year (and departed from the triangle offense), the Knicks were actually not that terrible (13-15). Considering Derrick Rose missed most of the preseason and Joakim Noah was chronically hobbled and immobile (which may never change), that’s the good news.
The bad news is all of Phil’s slights, slings and arrows that he has lobbed at Anthony to deflect from his own incompetence. Like Phil, Melo’s many critics attending Twitter University have multiple PhD’s in Hoops Nitpicking.
Critics will say Melo is a one-dimensional player, but it’s just not true, nor does it explain how he led the Knicks in scoring, rebounding, and assists in 2015-2016.
They say that he never passes, but those 4.2 assists per game were also fifth-best in the league for all non-guards.
They obsess about how many seconds Melo holds the ball, but ignore those 51 losses in 60 games where he failed to touch it at all.
They believe “ball-stopping” is a four-letter word, and prioritize style and flow over points and wins.
They explain how he is not LeBron, but who the hell is?
Finally, they forget that LeBron, and even Michael Jordan, took their unfair share of heat before they upgraded their dance partners.
Sports media and fans have never been too good at judging great talent with lesser teammates. So instead of examining the other Knicks, his teammates’ flaws becomes Melo’s own.
Unlike Phil, Melo’s college coach embraced his game all the way to a National Championship.
“He gets criticized for what he does, and that’s being an offensive machine,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “I’m tired of reading it. He doesn’t play like LeBron James. He can pass, but he’s a scorer. He’s an offensive force. That’s what he does.”
In the NBA, there has been too little study of Carmelo’s teammates, and this goes back to Denver — where upon arrival as a 19-year-old rookie in 2003, Anthony improved the Nuggets from 17 to 43 wins overnight. That’s 26 extra wins. Melo did that.
Melo’s best two Nugget years came with a great point guard. “We were two plays away from [beating the Lakers] and winning the West,” says Billups of the 2009 postseason, “and we could’ve easily beaten Orlando. That’s how close we were to winning it in Denver.”
In “Why Carmelo Anthony Is the Ultimate Team Player,” Nate Silver studied 16 Nugget teammates who played at least 2,000 minutes with Melo, and found that all but two posted a higher true shooting percentage playing with Anthony than without him.
Carmelo makes his teammates better. This is not an opinion; it’s a statistical fact. Silver explains:
“Because he is able to score from anywhere in the court, Anthony draws attention and defenders away from his teammates, sometimes leaving them with wide-open shots. … These effects produce a profound increase in the efficiency of Anthony’s supporting cast when he is on the floor.”
Kristaps Porzingis, the undisputed future King of the Knicks, agrees. “I think it would make life harder for me on the court (if Anthony was traded),” Porzingis told the Daily News. “He makes stuff easier for me.”
Porzingis is 2-12 in games he started without Anthony.
In the NBA, Mike Woodson has been the only Knicks coach who fully embraced Carmelo’s skill set over predesigned coaching schemes. Woodson took over an 18-24 Knicks team, immediately built on Melo’s strengths, and finished 18-6 with the same exact team (note: it’s absurd Woodson has not been rehired as a head coach).
Woodson then won 54 games the following season with J.R. Smith as Carmelo’s No. 2 scorer, Tyson Chandler’s strong rebounding, and a sharing backcourt of Raymond Felton and an aged Jason Kidd. Chandler, J.R., and Iman Shumpert were also strong defenders who Phil quickly traded away for a bag of chips.
Up until the disastrous trade for Andrea Bargnani, Woodson’s Knicks had the right formula but not enough title talent. Jackson didn’t just ship off the talent — he destroyed the formula.
Woodson’s 54-win Knicks surrounded Melo with defense, a top rebounder, and passing guards. Phil’s Knicks abandoned defense and rebounding, and suddenly, Sasha Vujacic was starting 25 games, a new career high.
A good question to ask is: If Carmelo can win 54 games with the Knicks and with J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler as his next best players, what might he do with Chris Paul creating easy buckets, and a rebounding force like DeAndre Jordan?
If there was ever a team tailor-made for Melo’s strengths, and vice versa, it’s the Clippers. Woodson is their assistant coach, Jordan is a bigger, better version of Chandler, and Chris Paul and Melo complete each other.
Take it from Chauncey: “You got to have a really strong point guard with (Carmelo) that knows how to get him the ball, when to get him the ball and when not to get it to him. He’s at his best playing like that.”
Which is precisely why Carmelo must be let out of Phil’s triangular prison, and join Chris Paul (and if not Paul, then John Wall).
If Clippers management makes the decision to re-sign Paul and truly “go for it,” it should consider going all in on a Griffin-for-Anthony swap with a Kyle O’Quinn throw-in to help make up for lost age and rebounds. Griffin’s strong inside game is being wasted alongside Jordan but would benefit Porzingis.
The Clippers would immediately join top-four NBA status with a legitimate two-year shot at a title. If a “two-year shot” seems too slim, please kindly review the Clippers’ first 33 years of existence.
The Nuggets and Knicks won 17 and 29 games the year before Carmelo arrived, so joining the Clippers would be like Durant joining a team that went 96-0, playoffs included.
If Durant felt compelled to join a front-runner, perhaps he closely studied the lack of appreciation given to his Olympic teammate Carmelo.
Durant knows that teammates matter.
If you are still unsure about this, just remember one stat: 9-51.