Earlier in the 2019-20 NBA season, 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony was given the opportunity to continue his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. Anthony didn’t waste any time to prove that he still has gas left in his tank and could be useful to a team aiming to win the NBA championship title. In 50 games he played, the 36-year-old small forward averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc.
However, Anthony is currently on the verge of losing his spot in the Trail Blazers’ starting lineup. According to Stevie Cozens of Fansided’s Rip City Project, when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes, the Trail Blazers may consider demoting Anthony to the bench and give the starting power forward role to Zach Collins, who is expected to return after undergoing surgery in November last year.
“But, with this teams abysmal regular season defense so far, the best place for Melo may be coming off the bench and letting Collins take his place at the four. If Hassan Whiteside is the starting five next to Collins, then Nurkic and Melo could potentially form a nice front-court off the bench. Because of Nurkic’s superior defense, he is a better fit with Melo, while Collins’ superior defense to Melo means he is a better fit with Whiteside. Melo can terrorize opponents bench units with his scoring and size. At this stage of his career, this may be a better option.”
Replacing Anthony with Collins in the starting lineup makes a lot of sense for the Trail Blazers, especially if they are serious about earning the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Anthony may still be a reliable scoring option, but he also remains a defensive liability. In order to have a better chance of consistently winning games, the Trail Blazers need someone like Collins to help them improve their defensive efficiency that currently ranks No. 26 in the league, allowing 111.1 points per 100 possessions, per ESPN.
Collins would give the Trail Blazers a superior defender. Aside from being a quality rim protector, Collins could also help guard the perimeter. Though he isn’t a shot creator like Anthony, Collins could space the floor and facilitate the ball.
Moving Anthony to the bench would also benefit the Trail Blazers. If Anthony would fully accept and learn how to maximize his role off the bench, he would undeniably be a huge headache to the opposing team’s second unit. Also, if the Trail Blazers decide to keep Hassan Whiteside as their starting center, Cozens believes that pairing Anthony with Jusuf Nurkic in Portland’s second unit could help them hide his defensive weaknesses.