The Los Angeles Lakers emerged out of the free agency period completely fresh. Much of the roster was turned over with new faces (and some old ones) joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a quest for the franchise’s 18th NBA title. With stars like Russell Westbrook and old friends like Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza among the new additions, one future hall of famer has been cast in shadow since the announcement that he would be playing in purple and gold this season.
Carmelo Anthony has been tied to the Lakers for years, even predating his best friend LeBron joining the squad in 2018. That connection will finally be made this season as the 37-year-old seeks a ring to add to his already loaded resume. How he fits on this roster, one with experienced veterans at every position, is one of the many questions surrounding this interesting — to say the least — roster.
Anthony’s reputation has, at times, taken a hit due to accusations of selfishness. The forward struggled to take smaller roles in Houston and Oklahoma City after being the star for both the Nuggets and Knicks, leading to a long absence from the NBA as teams seemingly wanted nothing to do with him.
Perhaps that obstacle awakened something in Anthony, who signed with the Blazers to take a back seat to the duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. While he started all 58 games he appeared in during his first season in PDX, he seemingly had no issue coming off the bench for the vast majority of his appearances in season number two.
For the Lakers, that role will be even more limited. Anthony is expected to play off the bench and the trio of James, Davis, and Westbrook are, clearly, the focal points that everything runs through. Still, Anthony’s talent is beyond that of just a spot-up shooter, though he did shoot better than 40% from three last season which was surely a convincing argument for Rob Pelinka and company to sign the veteran.
Melo’s role may simply come down to replicating the production from Markieff Morris in his first half-season after coming to LA from Detroit. A stretch four who can knock down open shots but also bang down low and create decent looks in the post when the offense breaks down. Anthony should not be a focal point in the offense, even with much more offensive skill than Morris, but rather be an emergency option that can create a shot for himself when no one else can.
Melo was not brought to the Lakers to be a playmaker; that has simply never been a strength of his. But he can clearly knock down open looks and he can isolate both in the post and on the perimeter to get his own shot off. Those isolation possessions should and will be limited but serve as a valuable reset button for a Lakers offense that will almost certainly have stagnant stretches even with the predicted improvements through roster changes.
What may be more of a concern is how Anthony fits into the defensive scheme. At age 37, the veteran is not magically going to turn into a good defender when he has never been that, even with the motivation of a title chase. Where Anthony does serve some purpose on that end of the floor is through some solid switch-ability, at least between threes and fours, as well as the strength to hold his own in the paint. With Davis, DHoward, and Marc Gasol likely to be covering the rim at all times, Melo’s job is to just defend within that structure, don’t overhelp, and let the big men close out those possessions. Anthony’s stellar rebounding ability means that if and when the Lakers do get stops with him on the floor, he will be crucial in ending those defensive possessions and igniting fastbreak opportunities that promise to be an integral part of the Lakers’ season.
Despite Morris’ poor second season in LA, it was clear that the forward was willing and able to step in to contribute despite an often fluctuating role. Will Anthony be able to provide the same level of flexibility to start, come off the bench, or perhaps not even play in some situations? Time will only tell but the future hall of famer spoke at length during his introductory press conference about his willingness to do just that, like several of his new teammates.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just know I’m prepared,” Anthony told reporters. “I’m ready. I’m ready to go play basketball. I know what’s at stake here and I’m totally locked in.”
That’s a good start to a long awaited marriage between Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers. It’s one that holds a lot of promise for both player and team if the correct balance and role is found.