3 lineups that could make-or-break the Portland Trail Blazers’ trip to Orlando

Portland Trail Blazers - Zach Collins (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers - Zach Collins (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

No. 1: Carmelo Anthony (potentially) with Portland’s new bench mob:

The dichotomy between those who observe games and those who prefer box scores and media headlines will forever be attached to how we view Carmelo Anthony.

From my perspective, Anthony’s been brilliant in fulfilling his role. He’s stood (literally) as a capable spot-up shooter off the catch. His 38.1 percent success rate on catch-and-shoot attempts ranks No. 52 among those taking at least 3.0 per game, and played at least half the season. Along the way, his work has produced a +2.9 on-off swing.

But his greatest contribution — arguably — has gone mostly unnoticed. In the Lillard-McCollum era, they’ve seldom had that third guy capable of providing a bucket when they need a breather. Since joining the team, he ranks No. 2 in fourth quarter minutes and No. 3 in attempts. And on film, those clutch plays are well-documented.

But as the underlying question has been all season long: when the Blazers approach full health, is Anthony still the starter?

If not, how seamlessly he fits in with the second unit deserves consideration. This isn’t the be-all, end-all, but here’s how the Blazers have played when Anthony’s been paired with Portland’s proven second unit.

— Anthony + Trent Jr.: 537 minutes, -1.17 net rating
— Anthony + Simons: 517 minutes, -9.24 net rating
— Anthony + Hezonja: 152 minutes, -25.27 net rating

This is less of an indictment of Anthony than it is on those other players. Anthony himself has multiple seasons where he scores more than the Blazers’ bench (26.5 points), fewest in the NBA.

I’m probably one of the few people in the world that thinks Anthony is still capable of carrying an offense, be it a first or second unit. But considering these raw numbers, it’s worth wondering if we should have second thoughts on exactly who starts and who sits.

Anthony will have tons more help in the event that he does carry a second unit offensively with either Nurkic or Whiteside (or Collins), but it’s nonetheless a lineup to watch for as the Blazers prep for a second straight deep Playoff run.