Carmelo Anthony is one of the greatest scorers ever to grace an NBA court. But in 2022, can he still add value to the Portland Trail Blazers?
Melo was signed as an injury replacement for the Blazers back in 2019, and averaged 13 points on average efficiency with some strong three-point shooting numbers. He had a great Bubble though, in 2020, and although he didn’t play good defense, he hit big shots down the stretch to help the Blazers make the playoffs.
This season, with the Blazers healthier, he played fewer minutes, but still had an impact offensively.
Unfortunately, the Blazers bench defense with Melo a key component, was one of the worst in the NBA. Paired with Enes Kanter, this was probably no surprise, but Melo’s lack of lateral movement and mistakes when playing in help, meant he gave away as many points as he put in on offense.
Because of fans’ love for Melo and how he used to score in his heyday, it’s hard for them to look at him objectively. But here are the facts.
As a three-point shooter, he is still a good one, but it’s on low volume. He only averages 4.3 three-point attempts a game in his two seasons with the Blazers, but shoots an excellent 39.9 percent from there. It’s a product of the system and the touches he likes to get that his shot profile is like this. Melo likes to get his touches deep in the post or in the high post, but this is where the problems lie with his game.
Melo has actually increased the amount of deep and long mid-range shots he takes in Portland, up to 42.7 percent of his shots. This is higher than his career average and only less than when he was in New York. If you include the shots he makes from floater range ( which pushes the number up ), he only makes 41.5 percent from mid-range.
This efficiency level just isn’t enough for a guy to take the amount of mid-range shots that he does. Six shots a game from mid-range might not sound like a lot, but when more efficient shooters like Anfernee Simons only took 6.3 shots a game total, you can see where the math doesn’t work out. Portland has multiple guys who hit 38 – 40 percent from three; why should they settle for 41.5 percent from midrange?
Melo also isn’t guarded like he used to be because of his inability to get to the rim or finish there. Because opponents don’t guard him for drives now, it changes how the defense needs to cover him, not making him the same threat. Melo isn’t able to finish at the rim anymore.
Though we saw him make more assists this year, his assist percentage in Portland is half his career average. Melo in Portland may make some nice reads from time to time, but when he has the ball in his hands, he isn’t making plays for teammates.
As a rebounder, Melo has really fallen off; he now sits in the bottom 20 percent on both the offensive and defensive glass.
Defensively, this season Melo was more active in passing lanes, and at the rim, this brought his block and steal numbers up to where they need to be, which is a positive, but he is still unable to guard a lot of fours in this league.
As a post defender, he added value in the matchup with Nikola Jokic in the playoffs, showing he could put in work as a small-ball five, but he can’t actually play the five because of his lack of rim protection full-time.
His defensive on-off numbers reflect that the Blazers are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA when he is on the floor; opponents score 5.4 points more 100 possessions when he is out there.
The reality for Melo, is that at age 37, he doesn’t do enough things well to be a plus player on a contender. Because he can’t guard or rebound his position and isn’t efficient as a scorer, he is better in a smaller role or on a non-playoff team.
There’s no reason he can’t be brought back to Portland as an 8 – 14 minute guy who can spot up from three or get the odd post-up, but the best thing for the team is for him to have a smaller role if he was to come back and sign other back up bigs.
Melo has helped this team when they needed it, and deserves credit for the big games he’s had, but it’s time for him to take on a smaller role.