Carmelo Anthony has shown flashes of the “old Melo” during his four game stint with the Trail Blazers. Can he keep it up for the next 64 games? It’s been a fun experiment so far, but his true value and ceiling have yet to be defined.
Carmelo Anthony has added energy, he carries a Hall of Fame aura, he’s been fun, the team loves him, and he’s coming off a 25 point performance. He’s got a hot hand right now. But let’s be clear, Carmelo Anthony, like it or not, will not be the determining factor that turns the Trail Blazers season around.
Currently, the Blazers are sitting at a 6-12 record and are just as close to last place in the conference as they are to the playoff picture. The Blazers were in the bottom third of the league in defensive rating before adding Carmelo, and to put it frankly, Carmelo Anthony makes the team even worse on the defensive side of the ball. Carmelo Anthony has a lot of positives to bring but all the good comes with bad and all the bad comes with good.
First off, Carmelo has exceeded expectations despite the 1-3 record since his return to the court. He has made it clear that his time with the Blazers “ain’t a damn farewell tour“. He’s here to compete, contend, and play his role in helping the Trail Blazers find their way back to the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. So far, the six time All-NBA player and ten time All-Star is acing the test.
Through 4 games, Anthony is averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists, while shooting over 39 percent from beyond the three-point line. Shooting a better percentage from deep than either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum is no small feat. Anthony’s numbers are great for any player in the league, let alone a player who went unsigned in the offseason and was added fourteen games in.
Compared to his ten game tenure with the Rockets last season, Carmelo has been much better this year. He averaged the exact same amount of minutes per game while only managing 13 points and 0.5 assists while shooting a lousy 32.8% from deep. The bulk of his offensive numbers are significantly improved this season, which is more than what the Blazers had asked for from the 35 year old.
With the Trail Blazers, the pros have outweighed the cons with the Carmelo Anthony signing. The most important of all the pros being that Anthony has seemingly bought into his role on the team. Of course, it’s easy to buy in when immediately inserted into the starting lineup, given plenty of opportunity to showcase his iso-ball talent, and being handed 30-ish minutes per night. Nevertheless, having Carmelo’s full buy-in will do just as much for the success of the team as his sixteen points per game will.
Secondly, the chemistry has been there from the jump. It’s as obvious as can be that the team rallies around Anthony and is given an extra energy boost when he hits his shots. The bench mob celebrating his every shot, and the entire team imitating his signature “3 to the dome” motion is truly a beautiful sight.
Thirdly, when it comes to the value that Carmelo Anthony brings the team, the ability to shoulder a chunk of the offensive burden at times is priceless. Lillard and McCollum have been the guys to do it all for the Blazers the past few seasons, and the Blazers have yet to stray from that offensive game plan. Now, with Anthony possessing the ability to score and handle a handful of offensive possessions on his own, the risk of a complete burnout from 82 games of reliance on Lillard and McCollum is unquestionably lessened.
Yet again, all the good comes with bad. For every positive statistic, there is a negative one that follows. He is averaging two and half turnovers per game, is fouling opponents more often than any other Trail Blazer, and is shooting a lower percentage from the field than all but three other players on the roster.
Further, Anthony has posted a net defensive rating of over 120 in two of his four games in a Blazer uniform. Currently, the worst defensive rating of any team in the league is just over 115. This is, well, not a great stat for Melo especially on a team that already struggles defensively.
At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie. Carmelo Anthony is a tremendously talented offensive player, and his presence alone adds a value to this team that no other free agent could have brought. But his defensive liabilities will continue to be exposed as the Blazers allow teams to pick apart their broken defense.
To answer the original question, Carmelo Anthony’s ceiling as a player is not much higher than the performance we saw against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night and as a team, the Blazers ceiling is not much higher than it was before he was signed. Still there is every reason in the world to be excited about Anthony’s time with the Blazers. If nothing else, he is a legend, and the Rip City faithful should enjoy every second of it.
(All statistics from stats.nba.com )