Can Carmelo still be a valuable contributor for the Portland Trail Blazers?

Portland Trail Blazers - Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers - Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A selfish mentality tainted Carmelo Anthony’s image in the NBA, but perhaps a stable environment with the Portland Trail Blazers could turn things around.

If there’s one team out there that could tame the beast that is Carmelo Anthony, it’s the Portland Trail Blazers. With dozens of players around the league still reminiscing about their time in Portland with nothing but good things to say about Damian Lillard and co., it’s not outrageous to say the Blazers may have the healthiest locker room in the league.

Truth be told, that’s the root of the Melo problem. Years spent in a toxic locker room environment manifested by the worst owner in professional sports and a revolving door of failed general managers fostered a selfish me-first mentality inside Carmelo. He had to be “the guy”, the one to finally put the Knicks back on the map for the first time since the ’90’s. Because who else was going to do it for him?

Last week, former NBA star Chauncey Billups discussed his ex-teammate’s attitude on the court, even stating, “Scoring 30 meant too much [to Carmelo]”. Often to the detriment of his own team, Anthony would celebrate in losses if it meant he had a great scoring game — or vice versa.

But even after those (unintentionally) damning statements, can you blame Melo?

Can you really blame Melo for trying to be the savior of New York? Despite never having a quality supporting cast or a front office who would give him one?

Now I know what you’re thinking, Anthony is the one who muscled his way into New York via trade in the first place, thereby gutting the roster instead of waiting for free agency. However, the Knicks pulled the trigger on the deal anyways, instead of waiting patiently with their assets still in hand. A player should never be criticized for pursuing a situation where they feel most comfortable, a la Anthony Davis and Paul George this summer — they’re only human.

Story lines in the NBA develop fast and deteriorate even faster. It seems like people have been calling Carmelo washed up for years now. However, they couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2017, Melo was an All-Star that put up an efficient 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Just last year, he still averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting an effective 35.7 percent from deep on over six attempts per game.

Don’t believe he’s still got the juice? Well, just see for yourself.

Those numbers far-and-away eclipse the results role players such as Justin Holiday and Kent Bazemore put up, however they are both still seen as valuable contributors in the league even today.

Before anyone mentions his effort on the defensive end, you should be reminded that Carmelo has an above average career defensive rating of 108, and has shown as recently as 2016 that he can be an average defender with a Defensive Box Plus/Minus of (-0.2). The difference ultimately comes down to the expectations placed on his shoulders.

Anthony’s days as a star are done. There’s no denying that. If he didn’t know that last season, he does now. After a whole season passing with no team willing to pay the future Hall of Fame talent, he should respond to the wake up call. If teams (and the fans) could lower their expectations for him as well, he could still carve out a role in the league and potentially even compete for Sixth Man of the Year honors.

dark. Next. Did the Blazers get better or worse this Summer?

But it all starts with Melo. And perhaps there’s no better team to coax a winner’s mentality out of the superstar-turned-super villain than the Portland Trail Blazers.