Off to an ugly 4-8 start this season — despite Damian Lillard tearing it up at an MVP level — the Portland Trail Blazers are desperate for any help in the frontcourt they can find, especially a four who can stretch the floor.
Enter Carmelo Anthony.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story.
He will join the team during its upcoming six-game road trip. Lillard is reportedly on board with this.
Portland visits Houston on Monday of that road trip — the last team that ‘Melo played for.
This is really a low-risk move by the Blazers thanks to the non-guaranteed contract. If it doesn’t work out, Portland just moves on.
Anthony has been searching for a path back into the NBA through most of last season — the Rockets let him go after just 10 games, deciding to part ways — and this past summer, with no takers until now. Two issues were holding teams back. First has been concern about his willingness to accept a role. ‘Melo is losing the race with Father Time and is no longer a top offensive option, yet he reportedly wanted to be treated like one — and get the touches of one. There were concerns he would be disruptive, something he (and the people around him) pushed back hard against.
The second issue was ‘Melo’s defense, which has gone from not good to dreadful. In an NBA where big men now have to cover more in space, Anthony has been exposed. And will be again.
Portland was in the right position to roll the dice on Anthony.
Portland has an elite backcourt led by Damian Lillard, who is averaging 30.5 points per game and carrying the offense. His backcourt partner CJ McCollum has struggled out of the gate, but Portland isn’t really worried about him finding his rhythm soon and getting back to being himself.
The frontcourt, however, has been a disaster. Jusuf Nurkic — their third-best player last season, and at points arguably their second-best — is out until likely after the All-Star break from a fractured leg that required surgery. The Blazers had hoped Zach Collins would take a step forward this season and fill that role both at the five and as a stretch four, but he is out four months following shoulder surgery. Pau Gasol was signed this summer but he has yet to step on the court and is battling a foot issue.
Hassan Whiteside was a big off-season move (via trade), but he has played like he always has — sporadic effort and empty calorie stats. His inability to set a good pick has hurt the ability of Lillard and McCollum to find space. Beyond that, Anthony Tolliver and Skal Labissiere getting plenty of minutes.
In that context, adding Anthony to see if it can work out makes sense.
If not, the Blazers can just move on, but you know Anthony will be motivated to make this work.