The NBA has been full of talk about Carmelo Anthony recently, and with good reason – it looks as though the Houston Rockets are going to cut ties with him after just 10 games. An experiment gone horribly wrong, the Rockets were awful with Anthony on the floor and it was clear to everybody involved that he was a terrible basketball fit. An all-time great scorer in his heyday, his declining athleticism and the modernization of the league has a whole will leave Anthony as a man without a team in the very near future. Naturally, the conversation turns to where he goes from here, be it retirement or another team a bit further down in the hierarchy of the league, at which point the Portland Trail Blazers are drawn into the conversation.
The problems concerning Anthony’s fit on a team with winning aspirations has less to do with what he does well and more to do with what he doesn’t. For role players in today’s NBA, which is what Anthony surely is at this point his in career, it’s more important to be competent in lots of different skills than it is to be elite at one thing and deficient at the rest. Anthony’s scoring touch, especially as a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter, is still there, but if that’s the only skill he has, fitting him into a lineup becomes problematic. He was never anything special defensively, but years of bad habits have caught up with him now that his athleticism is waning in his mid-30s, leaving him as a massive negative on that end of the floor. Add to it his propensity for ball-stopping offensively as he searches out his favorite mid-range jumper and the offense gets bogged down far too often.
For the Trail Blazers in particular, who are comfortably in the Western Conference playoff picture, the addition of any new talent only makes sense if that player would break into their playoff rotation. They might also acquire someone who could play enough in the regular season to take some wear and tear off the top guys but understand that his role would diminish come April and May. Anthony doesn’t hit either of these for a Portland team who certainly wouldn’t use him in a playoff setting and don’t necessarily need the depth he would provide when weighed against the headache it would cause once the playoffs did roll around.
Head Coach Terry Stotts will be perfectly happy rolling out Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu at the power forward spots ahead of Anthony. Harkless maxes out as a 35 percent three-point shooter but brings so much else to the table as a transition threat and solid defender that overshadows the improvement Portland would get with Anthony’s outside shooting. Aminu is in the same camp; he brings enough to the table as a defender and glue guy offensively to overtake the minimal improvement in spacing and three-point shooting Anthony would bring.
The logistics of adding Anthony to the team wouldn’t be too much of a hindrance—Wade Baldwin would provide the necessary cut to make room for him on the roster—but that doesn’t mean Neil Olshey will be putting in a waiver claim for Anthony’s minimum contract. The narrow window of teams on which he fits is getting narrower by the year and after the way his ten-game stretch in Houston went, there may not be an NBA team out there who’s willing to bring him in, even on a minimum contract. Portland, who have major playoff aspirations, shouldn’t even consider it.