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Trail Blazers Should Pursue a Trade for the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony

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Peter Sampson explains why he’d welcome Melo to Portland with open arms

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Trail Blazers are hoping Carmelo Anthony will waive his no-trade clause and agree to come to Portland. The Blazers are reportedly not willing to be trade partners in a deal that would send Anthony to the Houston Rockets.

While it may be true that Portland is only willing to deal if Anthony is Portland-bound, this rumor could be giant smokescreen. It’s quite plausible that Portland’s front office is trying to get either Houston or New York to make the deal more worthwhile—Eric Griffith broke down all of the reasons that the originally rumored Ryan Anderson-to-Portland trade wouldn’t work for the Blazers.

Anthony is rumored to only be willing to waive his no-trade clause to move to either the Cavaliers or the Rockets. But all indications are Cleveland is currently unable to get a suitable package together and Houston needs to find someone willing to take on Anderson if they aren’t willing to move Trevor Ariza or Eric Gordon as part of the deal.

So while the chances are likely slim that Anthony wants to go to Portland, he may just want to finally get out of New York. But if you’re the Blazers, and somehow the chance chance to get Anthony without giving up Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, or Jusuf Nurkic arises, you have to go for it.

A lot of fans are opposed to the idea of adding Melo to this roster, and I get it. They say he’s a chucker, that he’s a malcontent, that he doesn’t play defense. There’s some of that going on. But isn’t it possible that Anthony’s perceived bad attitude could be the result of playing on a terrible team in a terrible offensive system under a (former) terrible team president and a terrible owner?

It’s never okay for a player to mentally check out, but I can think of a Bosian center who had a bad attitude and stopped trying on defense when he thought he was being misused, but ended up working out pretty well for the Blazers.

Melo has shown that he can fit within a system—look how well he has played in multiple Olympics. I’m not talking about the actual results, because the level of competition is vastly different, but Anthony played a hyper-efficient team-based game. Even if he continues his isolation heavy ways, that actually fits in with Portland’s offensive system. The Blazers move the ball around a fair amount, but with the “read and react” mindset that Stotts instills in the team, the Blazers were 23rd in the league in assists per night.

Anthony would be a fantastic fit on the wings. Though he’s not a stellar 3-point shooter, Anthony is one of the better mid-range shooters in the game—connecting at a 46 percent clip from 16 feet to the 3-point line last season. Remember what coach Stotts did for LaMarcus Aldridge’s mid-range game? I would love to see what he could draw up for Anthony, who is still one of the best pure scorers in the NBA.

It’s true that Anthony isn’t a plus defender. He lacks lateral quickness and can get caught ball-watching. But a combination of the defensive-minded Al-Farouq Aminu and Melo both playing a hybrid 3-4 with Nurkic lurking behind them is an intriguing one. Depending on matchups, Stotts could elect to have Aminu guard the more offensively-skilled of the opposing team’s forwards. For context, according to basketball-reference.com, Anthony has spent 37 percent of his Knicks tenure playing power forward, while Aminu has logged almost exactly two-thirds of his Portland minutes at the four.

Portland would be taking a substantial risk as Melo can become a free agent next summer by exercising a player option. But even if Anthony left, the Blazers would still be shedding salary. It probably doesn’t give Portland cap flexibility to make major moves but those are still real cost savings that absolutely matter on the business side and could clear room to re-sign someone like Noah Vonleh.

In the short term, if the Blazers somehow landed Melo, they would be a heck of a lot closer to contention they are today. They might even be able to make a run at the Western Conference elite during their one season with Anthony.

Anthony would also inject Portland with a level of star-power not seen in a long time, maybe ever. Though they still probably wouldn’t have enough to beat the Warriors, the Blazers would be in contention for that next tier, alongside the Spurs and the Rockets. Besides, they still have to actually play the games. An injury here, a locker room issue there, and the window might just crack open a little bit. It’s risk/reward, to be sure, but I think it’s a gamble Olshey needs to make, should the opportunity present itself.

Even though it’s not likely to come to pass, as a fan, I would welcome Melo with open arms. He still has a lot of gas left in the tank and placing him with Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic in a Stotts-led offense would be lethal.