No matter which lens you view it through, the Portland Trailblazers need Carmelo Anthony just as much as he needs redemption.
The Portland Trail Blazers haven’t looked like the team that drove their way to the Western Conference Finals last season. And Carmelo Anthony, well, he hasn’t looked like himself in quite some time.
Now, together, the two sides have an opportunity to bring out the best in each other.
But no matter the longevity of this tenure, Anthony’s time with Portland is already an unforgettable saga. After 375 days removed from the NBA, the league’s 19th all-time leading scorer is back and lacing them up.
The Trail Blazers agreed to a one-year non-guaranteed deal with the 10-time All-Star as of last Thursday night. They had long been suitors for Anthony, dating back to trade talks with New York when he played for the Knicks.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski announced this past Thursday that after a one and a half year sabbatical, the 10-time All-Star is making a comeback.
Portland is signing Carmelo Anthony, league source tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 15, 2019
While Anthony, 35, desperately needs to prove to both himself and the rest of the league, he’s still the player most consider a first-ballot Hall of Famer; it may be Portland who benefits most from his renaissance.
Carmelo Anthony was once considered the league’s greatest scorer, having won the scoring title for the 2012-2013 campaign behind a 28.7 points per game average.
And he’s just one of five players in NBA history to average at least 20 points per game in each of their first 14 seasons: (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Lebron James).
Coincidentally enough, he’s the only one of those five to have never won a championship.
To the surprise of none, his tenure with the Knicks culminated behind a dramatic trade saga that leaked into the team’s training camp in 2017.
He was traded to Oklahoma City for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick that eventually became big man phenom Mitchell Robinson.
But instead of the cocky forward that once scoffed at the idea of playing off the bench, the Thunder received quite the opposite.
Anthony couldn’t keep up with the Thunder’s pace or style of play and fell out of rotation well before the 2018 playoffs. Oklahoma would fall to the Utah Jazz 4-2 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, but Carmelo never saw a minute on the floor.
This trend would continue in Houston.
Oklahoma traded Anthony to Atlanta in the summer of 2018.
The entire league and their mother (and often cases grandmother) knew he would never suit up for the rebuilding Hawks. He was bought out just weeks later, and eventually signed in Houston. What was previously deemed a near-perfect fit turned out to be quite the opposite, but not to Anthony’s credit.
Houston failed to utilize the forward in the very role he signed on for and was used as a scapegoat when the Rockets fell to 4-6 through their first 10 games.
Still, Anthony posted a relatively respectable stat line: 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in 29 minutes per game.
He’ll look to pick up where he left off as early as Tuesday night, when he is expected to make his debut with Portland in their game against New Orleans, per Wojnarowski.
Portland lost third-year forward Zach Collins to a shoulder injury just three games into the season. And they were already thin at the power forward position, to begin with.
Naturally, some tough questions were presented. Of which one, Carmelo Anthony may prove an answer, even if only temporarily. In the veteran forward, Portland gets a subpar starting four or a bench talent that will help to bolster their frontcourt.
He provides floor spacing and scoring for a team ranked 13th in both field goals and three-pointers made, per NBA.com. In Houston, Anthony was knocking down 33 percent of his shots from deep on a career-high 6.4 attempts per game.
But he was growing into his role there, and that’s apparent when you look at the numbers. Anthony was shooting 29 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers in October of 2018, but improved to 31 percent for the month of November per NBA.com.
This all comes opposed to his 37 percent shooting average in the same situations throughout his 78 games in Oklahoma the season prior. Given time, Anthony may prove a lethal target for Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum late in games.
It’s also worth mentioning that Portland, as of Friday night, is in the bottom half of the league on such shots with a 36 percent shooting average nightly.
Still, introducing players to new roles is hard, for both the team and the talent.
Say what you want, but Anthony was adapting in Houston, something that’s never been asked of him in his entire career. Even the Thunder led him to believe he could still be a starting forward on a contending team.
As far as how the two sides came to this conclusion, it’s hard to ignore that Anthony may have chosen Portland (and vice versa) because there’s an actual need for his skill set.
Oklahoma needed pre-2014 Melo. Houston didn’t really need him at all.
The Trailblazers need a veteran shotmaker who can provide another voice to the locker room. They need someone fresh, who’s ready to play some ball right now, unaffected by the team’s sluggish and disappointing 14-game start.
The fact that they need Anthony at all, should be evidence enough that this partnership has a better chance at succeeding than his last two. And for Portland’s sake, it better.
Carmelo Anthony needs to prove to not only himself, but the rest of the league, he can still contribute to winning basketball at the age of 35.
The Portland Trailblazers, seemingly in a tailspin, need to prove that they’re the same (if not an improved version of the) club that made it as far as the Western Conference Finals last season. If this marriage works out, both sides stand to benefit.
Anthony playing is better for the league as a whole, but soon enough, it’ll prove most favorable for the Portland Trail Blazers.