The drama that unfolded with the Los Angeles Lakers during trade deadline week was nothing short of unnerving. When the smoke cleared, Anthony Davis remained in a New Orleans Pelicans uniform, but the Lakers still had to do something. Los Angeles made several smaller trades, acquiring Reggie Bullock from the Detroit Pistons and then dealing Michael Beasley and Ivica Zubac to the Los Angeles Clippers for Mike Muscala. The latter trade opened up a roster spot, which could be used on Carmelo Anthony, though nothing is set in stone:
Carmelo Anthony is a possible addition for the Lakers, but not an inevitability a team source tells ESPN. LAL will monitor the buyout market and will also consider a piece that could fortify their depth at PG or C, two positions they’ve been hit with injuries this season
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 7, 2019
Zubac is a promising young big who had been playing the best basketball of his life this season, so it was unfortunate to lose him. If the trade was done in part to create space for the former superstar’s impending deal with the Lakers, fans are hoping that Anthony had better be worth it.
Melo may be looking to team up with his Banana Boat buddy for a chance to bring the Lakers back into playoff contention. They are currently in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, far from the ideal situation management thought they would be in after signing James in the offseason.
But a playoff spot is within striking distance, especially with the season far from over. From there, LA will take its chances in the postseason, whether as an eighth seed or higher. The question is this: Can a 10-time All-Star and former scoring champion on his last legs help them get there at all?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of signing Anthony to a contract.
If there’s anything Melo can still do, it’s get buckets. While the years have not been good to Anthony as he has aged, his scoring averages of 16.2 points and 13.4 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, respectively, the past year and a half prove that even in limited minutes he can be quite useful.
Despite appearing in only 10 games for the Rockets, his scoring average was better with them than any production the Lakers have gotten from any of their bench players. If you plug in that 13-plus-point average, he would be LA’s fourth-leading scorer.
Yes, Melo hasn’t been to enough games to make him look like he knows what it takes to really win in the playoffs, but he is more experienced than any of the team’s top young players who have never tasted hardwood action beyond the regular season. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram could freeze at any given time in the postseason, and that’s when someone like Anthony could come in to bail them out. Melo still has plenty of confidence in his shooting and wouldn’t hesitate to get up shots in the postseason.
Paired with a pass-first superstar like James (7.3 assists per game) and a supreme playmaker like Rajon Rondo who leads the team in assists with 7.7 a night, Anthony could shine in a supporting role off the bench. Melo would be an upgrade over the recently departed Michael Beasley and Svi Mykhailiuk, and it could be argued that he would be an upgrade over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as an offensive option. KCP also has very little postseason experience.
Not a Team Player
When it was suggested that he could come off the bench during media day prior to training camp with the Thunder in 2017, Anthony chuckled sarcastically at the thought by saying, “Who, me?!” True enough, Anthony started all 78 games in which he played for OKC as a stretch 4, and though he posted a 16.2 scoring average, he shot the lowest percentage of his career at 40.4 percent from the floor.
He did, however, play as a reserve in eight of his 10 games with the Rockets, but he never quite fit in with the team. Hence, the trade that brought him to the Bulls, who subsequently waived him soon after.
The NBA has veered away from isolation basketball, particularly due to the success that the Golden State Warriors have had by sharing the ball over the past few years. Winning three of the last four titles has done a lot when it comes to changing the NBA culture. Lakers coach Luke Walton, a Steve Kerr disciple during his time in Golden State, frowns upon that type of individualistic strategy and prefers the ball to move around before a shot is taken.
But Anthony thrives in iso basketball more than most players, and his lack of production with the Thunder and Rockets could be attributed to the ball not sticking to his hands for more than a few seconds. It remains to be seen if Anthony can play within a system that’s not predicated on him as the focal point of the offense. The OKC and Houston experiments were failures, and who’s to say that it would work out in LA.
They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, and at 34 years of age, it may be too late for this dog to learn a different style of basketball.
As good as Anthony can be on offense, he often gets exposed on defense. The Utah Jazz took advantage of him in last season’s playoffs, and it’s no wonder why the result was a first-round loss for the Thunder. For a time, he was a good enough defender not to be a liability, especially during crucial moments of the game. But his advanced age has made him a defensive liability, and the Lakers would need to hide him just as the Thunder tried to do last season.
But can they?
Walton would have to employ good defenders around Anthony to make up for his shortcomings. It’s only possible against teams with a limited number of scorers, but this could prove to be difficult at other times, especially if the Lakers face a team with multiple offensive threats such as the Warriors. If they couldn’t find a way to protect themselves against a potential disaster if Anthony is brought in, the Lakers’ postseason run could also be one and done.
Should The Lakers Sign Him?
Even with the negatives surrounding a potential Lakers signing of the former superstar, Anthony could be useful to them if they could find a way to weaponize him in limited minutes. As soon as Anthony becomes a liability, if he has been humbled enough by his Rockets experience, Walton would need to yank him immediately. There have been many teams in the past, even championship teams, who have had to utilize an aging star and made use of them in order to win a title.
The Lakers are far from a championship team as presently constructed, but they need all the help they can get if they want to advance deep into the playoffs. Anthony would be a valuable addition as long as he could follow James’ lead and not get in the way of his leadership. If anything, Melo could be a good locker room voice for the youngsters on the team.
Given the fact that the Lakers missed out on acquiring Davis from the Pelicans’ grasp at the trade deadline, employing Anthony would be a good option to give them another offensive weapon in reserve minutes. Sure, there are other players who could be picked up off the buyout market, but Anthony is perhaps their best option.