Carmelo Anthony and the Portland Trail Blazers bowed out of the NBA playoffs last night with a 126-115 loss to the Denver Nuggets, dropping the first round series four games to two. If you’re a Blazers fan, there are more important storylines to follow. But as Syracuse fans, the future of the most transcendent player to put on an Orange uniform is something to ponder.
Anthony just finished his 17th season of NBA basketball. He came off the bench for Portland, averaging a career-low 24.5 minutes and 13.4 points a game in his age 36 season. Melo and LeBron James are the only players remaining in the NBA from the 2003 draft class. Anthony has a family, and has certainly done enough in the Association to be in the Hall of Fame. He did say he was considering retirement before the Blazers signed him in 2019. In 2020, Anthony said he enjoyed Portland enough that he wanted to end his career with the team.
But there’s another issue: Portland was the only team willing to take a chance on Melo after a rocky 2018, when he played 10 games and bounced around to three different teams. He’s is a free agent at the end of this season, and could be passed by as Portland moves forward. The Trail Blazers are now undergoing a serious examination from the top down. There was major pressure on head coach Terry Stotts going into the 2020-21 season, and the team’s failure to make it out of the first round, even with jaw-dropping performances from Damian Lillard, certainly could result in major roster turnover.
However, Anthony should still have value to NBA teams. He shot 41% this year from behind the arc on almost five attempts, his highest percentage since 2014 (he also shot 89% from the free throw line). He had multiple 20-plus point explosions in the regular season. There were times when Portland could feed him the ball and let him go one-on-one. Finally, he’s completely transformed his mindset. He’s willing to defer to superstars, and to come off the bench.
Melo is worth it for an NBA team. It might not be the Trail Blazers, but consider a young, up-and-coming team, the Grizzlies for example, that lacks a scoring punch off the bench and needs a wily veteran to guide its growing talent. Anthony took a minimum contract to play in Portland, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him do the same somewhere else. Expect to see Carmelo Anthony back on the court in 2021.