The Trail Blazers are on the ropes. Reeling from a haymaker thrown by the Houston Rockets, Portland needs to find the power to get up from the mat before the ref counts to ten.
The Blazers are just 5-9 on the season and injuries have left them thin at power forward. Enter Carmelo Anthony.
The 10-time NBA All-Star officially became a member of the Trail Blazers Tuesday morning and hopes to make his Blazers debut and return to the NBA on Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. A team in desperate need of a jolt has reached out to a future Hall of Famer with nothing to lose.
Anthony hasn’t played in over a year, but he is just what the Blazers need. Since Zach Collins went down with a dislocated shoulder, the Blazers have struggled to get any real production at the four.
Mario Hezonja has had some nice moments but hasn’t really put a full game together. Anthony Tolliver has struggled to find his shot and wasn’t signed to play 20 minutes a night. While rookie Nassir Little has shown some flashes, he has also made a lot of rookie mistakes. But, the biggest thing the aforementioned players are lacking is scoring punch. It may sounds cliché, but in the current NBA, getting stops isn’t as important as making sure the other team can’t stop you. You have got to score more points to win. With Anthony, the Blazers are showing offense is the focus.
Those who are anti-Melo may argue that he only averaged 13.4 points in 10 games with the Rockets last season, far off his career average of 24.0. Well, the Hezonja-Tolliver-Little trio has combined to average just 11.2 points per season. If Anthony is the same Anthony we saw last season, it doesn’t matter. It’s still what the Blazers need. One guy to fill the production of three. That’s an upgrade.
Anthony also gives the Blazers a shooting threat on the floor with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He’s someone they can pass the ball to and have confidence he can hit the open shot. Just by being on the floor, defenses will have to remain honest. It’s a rare skill when you don’t have to score a bucket to make the defense adjust to you. Anthony can do just that.
The biggest questions with Anthony are how does he fit in the lineup and how does it affect the rotation, particularly with Nassir Little. Little has slotted in as the starting power forward spot in recent games and has played well. Well enough, at least, to remain the starter, for now. He’s good on the glass, decent on defense, and has shown some explosion on the offensive end. He has earned a spot in Stotts’ rotation with or without Anthony.
How Anthony’s role impacts Little remains to be seen, but given how Stotts has used the rookie lately, you would have to assume those two will be 1-2 on the power forward depth chart, with Hezonja and Tolliver getting spot minutes.
All of this should culminate in Anthony sparking the Blazers. Portland has four games remaining on this road trip, with Milwaukee being the only team that has a winning record. If Anthony shows up, shows out, and fits like a glove, then this could be a stretch of games that change the season. Or, at least, a stretch of games that get the ship back on course.
With Melo, fans should expect to go 3-1 and return home next week with a chance to return to .500 on the season. Who do they play when they get back to Moda? The Oklahoma City Thunder – the last team Anthony played a full season for.
This has the potential to be the start of a storybook, and Melo has a chance to be the story’s hero.