Among other needs in the Summer of 2017, the Portland Trail Blazers could use an infusion of talent at the forward positions. But how far would they go to get it? That’s the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
The Blazers need another star, can we all agree on that? But of all the names proposed I only see one that could actually be gotten. Melo.
I know. I shudder when I think about it. But would I shudder in excitement if the Blazers somehow got him? Would you do it?
Blazer’s Edge editor Eric Griffith and I were talking about this the other day, along with a few other staff members. Both Eric and I agree that Carmelo Anthony has been underrated much of his career and remains so now. At the apex of his career arc he was all but unguardable...one of the top three players in the game. After 15 seasons in the league he’s still scoring 20 per game like it was nothing. Even on a lousy team with a steady diet of shots, that’s not as easy as people make it out to be. In a comparison that’s sure to cheese off Blazers fans to no end, all-time franchise superstar Clyde Drexler scored 22,195 points in 16 seasons. Anthony has tallied 24,156 with one fewer season in the books, over 2,000 fewer minutes played than Drexler. That’s how good this guy is. If the Blazers could get him for a cheap package, it’s worth stopping and thinking about.
Unfortunately the end product of that thinking, at least from my perspective, is that the fit would be too problematic to consider seriously.
More than anything, the Blazers have defensive problems. They need firepower in the frontcourt but it can’t come at the expense of defense. Anthony is a problem on that end of the court, not a solution.
Even on offense, Carmelo would have trouble meshing. He’s only shot well from three-point range in 4 seasons out of 15, all of them before he turned 30. He’s not Al-Farouq Aminu bad but he’s no Wesley Matthews either. At 32, his production isn’t going up. He’s still scoring but he’s not doing much else anymore. His True Shooting Percentage last year would have ranked only 6th among regular Blazers players. Absent an all-around game or qualities that nobody else brings, Carmelo would just add points to the 8th highest scoring offense in the league. That’s not enough to transform the team.
Assuming the Blazers were willing to pay the price for Anthony’s scoring potential, they’d still have to face the question of touches and precedence. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum anchoring the offense, the Blazers already run more isolation plays than anybody. Adding in Carmelo would send the needle crashing through the glass. I’m not sure how they’d keep everybody happy.
Nor could the Blazers expect a gentler, more team-oriented ‘Melo because guess what? He’s been scoring longer than those guards have, he makes just as much money as they do, Portland is a smaller stage than he’s used to playing on, and the team only won 41 games without him. “Fitting in” would not be the priority. This is not Kevin Durant going to the Warriors; this is Mr. Furley heading onto Three’s Company with Mr. and Mrs. Roper still in the apartment. They may be great actors, but no script is going to save that situation.
The kicker, of course, is figuring out why the New York Knicks would agree to deal Anthony to Portland. When trading away an All-Star you either want talent, potential, or cap savings.
The Blazers can’t/wouldn’t trade one of their starting guards for Carmelo, nor Jusuf Nurkic. Take the best two players remaining; the Knicks still lose that deal handily on the talent scale.
The Blazers can offer draft picks. New York is rumored to be interested in same. That could be a match. But if you advertise on Craigslist to swap one of your prized possessions for a guitar, you’re probably thinking Les Paul or Martin. Three entry-level Epiphones (“But they’re guitars and that’s what you said!”) won’t get the deal done.
Anthony is scheduled to make $26 million next year, followed by $28 million. The Blazers are already standing at the gates of luxury tax hell. They have to send out salary equal to that they take in. All the players whom Portland could send (outside of Ed Davis who makes only $6.3 million on an expiring contract next year) have contracts running as long as Carmelo’s. Most of them run a year longer. The Knicks wouldn’t save money dealing with Portland; they’d go farther in the hole.
Acquire less talent than you send out, don’t add significant potential, spend more money instead of saving it... I don’t see any way a deal like this happens.
But hey, let’s pretend like it could. Let’s say Phil Jackson goes crazy and will take Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard plus picks for Carmelo Anthony. Understanding who he is and the situation he’s coming into, but also understanding that the road between here and championship for the Blazers likely doesn’t connect without another good player on board, would you make that deal? Discuss below. I know the Blazer’s Edge staff did. Maybe they’ll share some thoughts here as well.
Don’t forget to keep those Mailbag questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org! I’ve got a backlog but that’ll clear up as the draft and early free agency passes. Get your thoughts in now for summer.