A big reason why the Portland Trail Blazers signed Carmelo Anthony earlier this season was because their frontcourt was decimated by injuries. But with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins expected back by the time things resume later this month, the Blazers’ frontline may suddenly feel crowded.
However, that doesn’t mean Anthony’s playing time will be cut.
While Blazers star Damian Lillard acknowledged that he “absolutely” expects both Nurkic and Collins to start, he doesn’t necessarily think that Anthony will be bumped from the starting five:
“I could see us having a pretty big lineup until you get to me and CJ (McCollum),” said Lillard, according to Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report.
In that scenario, Anthony would move to small forward, which was where he played for his entire career before the NBA landscape began to shift over the last several seasons.
Of course, that could present a pretty significant problem for Portland defensively. Anthony has never been known for his defensive prowess, and a trio of Nurkic, Collins and Anthony would not exactly be great in pick-and-roll coverage.
Obviously, Lillard does not have the final say in lineup decisions. That’s up to head coach Terry Stotts. But it will certainly be interesting to see how Stotts allocates minutes with Nurkic and Collins returning.
Let’s also remember that Hassan Whiteside was the Blazers’ starting center before the league was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, so Stotts will have to find playing time for him, as well.
Portland is one of the bubble teams contending for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.