The I-76ers

Around the Association: KD and Melo Chase the Scoring Crown

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Going into Tuesday night’s contests, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony remains the scoring title leader by just hundredths of a point over Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. With six games remaining for Melo and five for KD, this scoring race will give the NBA one last bit of regular season excitement, as the playoff picture is set for the most part.

Durant is hoping to continue his unprecedented run of scoring titles, as no player has ever won three consecutive, let alone three total, scoring titles by their age 23 season, but KD did just that in 2012. Doing so this season would already leave Durant as one of the most accomplished scorers in NBA History, as he would be tied for the most for the third-most scoring championships ever with George Gervin and Allen Iverson, trailing only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

I’m obviously not able to predict how each will finish out their seasons, but I can evaluate each of their season’s so far and see just how well each stands up against the other as an offensive player. Here’s traditional per game statistics:

Player Age G MP FGA FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST TOV PTS
Carmelo Anthony 28 63 37.2 22.0 .448 .381 .831 6.6 2.5 2.7 28.4
Kevin Durant 24 77 38.7 17.9 .506 .412 .906 7.9 4.5 3.5 28.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2013.

When comparing each in terms of their race for the scoring title, it’s worth noting that Melo is taking about 3 more shots per game than Durant, who is shooting the ball much more efficiently, as his FG% of 50.6% trumps Anthony’s 44.8% (45% is league average).

KD’s shooting percentages are of historical significance as well. By shooting 50.6% from the field, 41.2% from 3, and 90.6% from the line, Durant is in a position to become just the sixth player in league history to join the 50-40-90 Club from shooting at least each of those benchmarks in their respective categories. Being a part of that club that already features Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, and Dirk Nowitizki is a feat more remarkable than simply leading the league in scoring. Doing both is just unheard of, as the marksmanship of the 50-40-90 Club is not typically associated with the high volume scoring of the points per game leader.

Looking at a comparison of their advanced statistics leads to a similar conclusion as to which of the two is having the better year:

Rk Player Age G PER TS% eFG% AST% TOV% USG% ORtg OWS
1 Carmelo Anthony 28 63 24.2 .561 .503 13.9 9.6 35.2 112 6.9
2 Kevin Durant 24 77 27.9 .643 .554 20.8 13.6 30.0 122 12.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2013.

Durant crushed Melo across the board here with the exception of Turnover Rate, where KD has a decent lead over Anthony in that department. That’s a bit surprising to me, as I’d assume Melo’s much higher Usage Rate (18.79 is league average) would lead him to turn the ball over more. Melo’s increased Usage Rate is similar to the way he has more field goal attempts per game in that he’s scoring just as many points as KD in more opportunities.

Durant’s advantages in his shooting percentages are amplified here as well, as his True Shooting Percentage of 64.3% dwarfs Anthony’s 56.1% (53.5% is league average). The TS% leaders are prototypically filled with low-post players, but the Texas-product has just simply been that amazing, as he currently stands 5th on the rankings there.

KD’s Offensive Win Shares are almost doubled, alluding to his improved all-around offensive game, which Melo still lacks to an extent. Anthony is averaging the least amount of assists per game of his whole career and his Assist Rate is the lowest its been since 2005, whereas Durant is just a tenth of an assist shy of his career-high APG mark and set a new career-best in Assist Rate.

I’ve been pretty frank about Durant having a better season as a scorer and as an offensive player in general so far; however, I don’t want to diminish what Melo has done. He’s the third best forward in the league currently, not too shabby when the two guys ahead of you are going to end up at worst Top-40 players all-time. He’s revitalized the Knicks this season on their way to the 2nd seed in the East and he still remains one of a handful of the best scorers on the planet.

I know some Knick fan in Staten Island is screaming about what Carmelo has done in his last few weeks of playing and I admit he’s been brilliant leading up to the final playoff-push, but the NBA regular season is a months-long, not weeks-long event.

Regardless of who the scoring champ is, Kevin Durant will still stand as the better scorer for the time being.