Carmelo Anthony is the newest member of the Portland Trail Blazers. One of last generation’s NBA superstars will step onto a team in its prime, desperate for help at his position. He won’t be expected to be the Denver Nuggets or New York Knicks version of himself, but the Blazers are hoping he won’t be the Houston Rockets edition either.
Today Steve Dewald and Dave Deckard tackle a quartet of questions about Anthony and his role on the team.
What does signing Carmelo say about the state of the Blazers?
Steve: Like Wile E. Coyote running over open air at the edge of the cliff, the Blazers thin frontcourt put them in position for a tremendous fall. Signing Melo is the equivalent to opening an umbrella to soften that fall.
On the positive side, however desperate this transaction appears to be, it is a clear message to Damian Lillard that the front office is going to explore every option in an effort to salvage the season. Melo provides a pinch of good faith until the Blazers reach a point where they can move salary in a trade.
Dave: They were already weak at forward heading into the season. Zach Collins’ injury, Anthony Tolliver’s slow start, and Mario Hezonja’s...well...whatever Mario Hezonja is doing have exacerbated the issue. The cupboard isn’t just bare; there’s a bear trap inside it chopping off hands every time Coach Stotts reaches in. Given that, smacking the panic button makes sense. Kenneth Faried is in China. Joakim Noah isn’t a power forward. Ryan Anderson went to Houston. What are you gonna do?
Dig deep. How can ‘Melo improve the current roster?
Dave: He can eat minutes. The Blazers need somebody out there, even if it’s for 12 minutes a game. If he can hit a standstill three, he should be ok. The big question is whether he will, or whether he’ll try to dominate. I’m not sure he can do that anymore.
Steve: Let’s face it, it can’t get much worse at the power forward position. The “Nassir Little Experience” is entertaining, but the Blazers can’t afford to rely on a developing rookie as their best option in a loaded Western Conference. A year away from the NBA and an extended brush with forced retirement should put Melo in position to act as a niche floor spacer, a role the Blazers need to properly fill when opponents throw the kitchen sink at Lillard.
Steve: Melo was already a step slow during his last two stops, and a full year away from the court won’t remedy that. Even with Melo in the fold, the Blazers are incredibly thin in the post. Another spotty defender on the perimeter will apply even more pressure on Hassan Whiteside at the rim, opening the door for more foul trouble.
Dave: He’s Carmelo. This probably isn’t going to work. Over-dribbling and under-defending aren’t exactly a recipe for success, let alone in efficiency-conscious Portland. But my biggest concern is what happens after it fails? The season is already rocky. That’s why they’re taking this big swing. If it’s a swing and a miss, and there’s no other swing behind it, what does that do to morale for the rest of the year? Maybe Jusuf Nurkic can return and give his teammates new life, but it’s hard to avoid the perception that he’s returning to a season that’s already fizzled.
How can Anthony survive past the “best by” date on his contract?
Dave: Keep his head down, his energy up, and remember who is supposed to be shooting in the fourth quarter. (Hint: It’s not him.)
Steve: Melo has to show that he can thrive in the limited role he is tasked with. From providing somewhat reliable floor spacing to positioning properly for rebounds, he must show he can bring value when his number isn’t called.