Just a few short months ago it seemed like Carmelo Anthony would be out of the league for good, an unceremonious end for the career of one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.
Last week he buried a game-winner in Toronto as a key member of the Portland Trailblazers, who took a chance on the 35-year-old Melo earlier this season.
Even though Melo has done enough to earn a permanent spot on the Blazers roster, has his play actually improved from his poor stints with the Thunder and Rockets? Here’s a look at whether Melo has actually found a second wind in Portland.
The Case Against
While Melo has been scoring at a solid clip (16.3 PPG), his efficiency has been poor. His player efficiency rating is just 13.8, his third straight season at under the league average PER of 15. Melo has been especially inefficient at the rim, shooting a career-low between zero and three feet from the basket and just 44 percent on two-pointers overall, which is 257th in the NBA. For a player who was brought into Portland to provide instant offense these are concerning numbers.
His defense has also been well below league average, as it has been for most of his career. His defensive box plus-minus of -1.2 is right in line with his career average.
The rest of his advanced statistics also don’t fare very well. His win shares per 48 minutes are the lowest of his career, his offensive box plus-minus and his value over a replacement player (VORP) are also both in the negative for the third year running.
The Case For
Melo has finally started to find his shot a bit after two seasons shooting barely over 40 percent from the field. This season his field goal percentage is up to 43.4, his best percentage since the 2014-2015 season.
Even more impressive has been Melo’s performance from behind the arc. He’s currently shooting almost 40 percent from deep on four attempts per game, the second-best percentage of his entire 16-year career.
What really pushes his tenure in Portland into the realm of success is how much better Portlands offense has been performing with him on the court vs without. Portlands points per 100 possessions jumps from 109.6 with Melo on the bench to 112.5 while he plays an increase of almost three points, or to put it in a more impactful way, the difference between the 17th best offense in the league and the 5th best.
Melo has never been a player that advanced statistics smile kindly upon and that has not changed during his tenure in Portland. His performances around the rim have been concerning and his defense has continued to be below league average.
Despite all of that, Carmelo has succeeded in dramatically improving Portlands offense when he has been on the court, which is exactly what Portland signed him to do. His shooting percentages are up across the board and he’s been lights out from beyond the arc.
So far he has been doing exactly what the Blazers have asked of him, and while far from perfect, his time with the Blazers has been a success.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference