After more than a year away from the NBA, Carmelo Anthony is set to make his season debut with the Blazers, a team rattled by a poor start (5-9) and a key injury to Zach Collins at a position—power forward—where there is very little depth.
Anthony, a 10-time All-Star who is 35 years old, certainly is eager to get going. His deal is non-guaranteed through January 7.
“I just look at that opportunity with that team and say, ‘Look, this is what I can bring to the team, this is the way I can help,” Anthony said in a video he released on Monday. “It will only work if all parties see it the same way.”
So, how do the Blazers make this work? Where can Anthony help pull out of the doldrums a team that has Damian Lillard, who was supportive of the move, and C.J. McCollum, and entered the year with high expectations? What’s this going to mean for head coach Terry Stotts?
A Western Conference scout and a West assistant coach weighed in on the possibilities.
In the Post
The midrange post has been Anthony’s career bread-and-butter, an unfortunate circumstance for him because he came into the NBA just as the league was changing its rules, paving the way toward a league in which 3-pointers and shots at the rim have become dominant.
In his last All-Star season, in 2016-17 in New York, Anthony was a lone wing in a morass of post-up big men. He ranked 14th in post-up scoring among NBA players (with a minimum of 40 games) at 3.5 points per game, just behind Hassan Whiteside and just ahead of Jusuf Nurkic—coincidentally, the two centers on his current team. He was the only small forward in the Top 20.
Western Conference coach: “The Blazers do not run a lot of post-up plays, but I wonder if they’ll put in some wrinkles for Melo, to give him some touches in the places he is most comfortable. They’re go to ask him to do some things different than he has in the past for sure but it’s probably on them to do some things to make him comfortable, too. Portland is one team that’s not really afraid of the midrange, they get good looks from there. I think you set him up with those plays, just a couple times a game.”
Western Conference scout: “He loves the right block. But if I am defending him, I let him get it there. He is going to want to go to his fadeaway, that’s his shot, always has been. But he doesn’t elevate like he used to and he isn’t a threat really to spin and attack. So let him have that shot, put a big guy on him and bother him.”
As a Spot-up Shooter
As a shooter, Anthony has had decent enough numbers, making 44.9 percent of his shots from the field and 34.7 percent from the 3-point line, which isn’t that bad considering he struggled from the arc early in his career in Denver.
But over his last four seasons, including his brief stay in Houston, Anthony shot 42.4 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from the 3-point line. He was an average 3-point shooter who wasn’t particularly good from anywhere else on the floor.
Western Conference coach: “When I would watch him in the Olympics, he was a much more comfortable catch-and-shoot kind of player in those tournaments, he would move, he would run offense. I don’t know why that never translated back to the NBA, why he never got better at that. He is a volume shooter. No one needs a volume shooter who is only about average, maybe even a little less than average. He needs to understand that, he needs to pick his spots better and be willing to move off the ball to get to spots he likes.”
West Scout: “Portland doesn’t create a lot of spot-up shots, the offense is designed to get shots for McCollum and Lillard out of the pick-and-roll. But they take a good amount of 3s and if Melo can make 37, 38 percent, he is going to add value. If he makes 40 percent, they’ll love them.”
This is the real problem for Anthony and if there is a tangible reason that he has not been in the league for a year, it’s in the defensive numbers.
That’s shown up in the numbers. In his brief stint with the Rockets, Houston’s defensive rating dropped 4.3 points when Anthony was on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com. The defense was 1.9 points worse when Anthony was on the floor the previous year in Oklahoma City. In his last three years in New York the Knicks defense was worse by 5.9 points, 2.9 points and 3.0 points.
The last time Anthony had a positive defensive effect when he was on the floor was 2013-14.
West scout: “It’s the lateral quickness, that is the problem. He’s never really had it and as his career has gone on, the tighter they called hand-checking and all the little things a slower guy could do to keep up, the more difficult it got for him to keep up. Some of the wings now, Paul George or even LeBron (James) or Giannis, he is not going to keep up with those guys. And if you get him switched on a guard, forget it. If he is on the floor, you get him into a pick-and-roll every single time you can. He can’t guard it.”
West assistant coach: “They’re going to have to send help. I don’t know, it’s not going to be easy. Good luck, Terry Stotts.”