clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Burning Questions Week: is it time for Carmelo Anthony?

The veteran scorer could step straight into the role Danilo Gallinari was expected to play for Boston.

NBA All-Star Practice Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

On August 28, I was sitting on a beach in Costa Del Sol, soaking up the sun on vacation. To the left of my lounger, I see my phone light up with a notification. Danilo Gallinari has been hurt while playing in Eurobasket for Italy, and it looks pretty serious. Being on vacation, I chose not to embark on the social media cycle that would undoubtedly follow, and to wait for the medical evaluation — I mean, it was literally my first day away.

Within a day, reports surfaced that Gallinari had suffered an MCL sprain. Not ideal, but far from the worst case scenario.

And then, just a few days later, the hammer blow came. After undergoing more tests, it was confirmed that Gallinari had indeed suffered a torn ACL, and would likely miss the season. At this point, I was sitting on my hotel balcony drinking rum and coke, watching the boats sailing across the ocean. I had time. And so, I took to social media to share my opinion.

Let me premise this by admitting I have always been a Melo fan. I grew up idolizing his shooting mechanics, and his ability to dominate as a pure scorer, and I always rooted for the guy to eventually get out of his own way and allow himself to be a cog in a championship machine.

However, fandom has little impact on my belief that Anthony is the right guy to fill Boston's Gallinari-shaped void. In fact, adding Anthony is something I’ve been championing since the start of the off-season - check out the CelticsPod podcast for receipts.

The first thing people think of when talking of adding Anthony to the rotation is that he has the potential to be a disturbing addition to the locker room,. However, that is the Melo of old, and over the past three seasons, he has proven to be far more team orientated.

“It’s what works for this team, what we need for this team...I had to swallow that pill. I had to be really honest and transparent with the team and organization...If I sit here and say the thought of that wasn’t hard or difficult to hear and take and let that play with your pride and your ego, yes it does. Especially coming from somebody like myself. But I had to take a deep breath and figure it out,” Anthony told ESPN shortly after agreeing to re-sign with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2020, in what would be the first full-time bench role in his career.

Since then, Anthony has participated in 138 NBA games, coming off the bench for 132 of them. Not once have we heard of any discontent from the player's camp or any rumblings of locker room dysfunction due to his presence within the roster. Instead, Anthony has been an exemplary veteran, playing the role of bench scorer to the best of his ability, while also adding some additional veteran know-how.

The numbers back this up.

Throughout those 138 games, Anthony has averaged 5.2 three-pointers per game, converting at a 39.1% clip with 21.9% of his offense coming as a catch-and-shoot threat. Put simply, the former All-Star has embraced a larger off-ball role in his twilight years and is sticking to the script of being a release valve on offense.

And when his perimeter scoring isn’t coming directly off the catch, it’s coming courtesy of pick-and-pop sets, which given his scoring gravity, unlocks driving lanes for the ball-handler and/or off-ball slashers. You see, Anthony might be past his prime, but there isn’t an NBA defender worth his salt that would leave that man unchecked on the perimeter.

When thinking of the role Gallinari would be asked to play in the upcoming season, these two play types are the most prominent areas we would have seen the talented forward displaying his skills. The fact that Anthony is capable of providing similar output at a reliable clip should not go unnoticed — especially if Boston is looking for an additional shooter to open the floor up for budding corner three specialist, Grant Williams.

Let’s be real, though. When you’re talking about adding Anthony to your roster, you have to be prepared for an increase in mid-range attempts, either from the elbows, or courtesy of his famous post-up fadeaway.

While scoring off the catch has been one of Anthony's most utilized play types since his move to a bench role, there is still one aspect of his game that reigns supreme - working out of a post-up. In fact, according to Instat’s tracking data, over the past two seasons, 23.3% of Anthony’s total offense has come from him backing down his man.

We’ve all seen some iteration of this move over the years, and at times, have become accustomed to Jayson Tatum doing his best rendition from similar spots on the floor. Yet, for somebody like Anthony, who is adept at creating the necessary shooting space, or operating as a hand-off outlet for a curling wing, there is no place you would rather him have the ball in his hands.

Yet, Anthony’s true value on or around the block is his ability to command his space, and punish defenders who opt to ‘front the post’ - and that’s something only multiple years in the league can teach.

While Gallinari is more of a face-up scorer, Anthony brings a multi-faceted shot profile that could help uplift Boston’s bench unit, especially after last season's periods of stagnation. Suddenly, you have a pure scorer capable of hurting teams from deep or in the mid-range, where he shot 48% last season, per Cleaning The Glass.

Defensively, Anthony, like Gallinari, gives you an extra body to combat opposing teams when they get physical, but in reality, neither veteran was ever going to be an impactful member of the rotation on the defensive end of the floor. The only saving grace for Gallinari was that his height would always allow him to be a shot deterrent in drop defense whereas Anthony is more of a weak-side helper who can rotate over to pressure scorers.

However, Gallinari was never acquired for his defensive presence, but rather to provide an additional scoring punch off the bench, and to also help space the floor. Now, with Gallinari reportedly out for the season - or at least the lion's share of it, Anthony is the best possible candidate to fulfill that role without throwing Boston deeper into luxury tax territory.

And if I’m being honest, there isn’t a better-equipped veteran to step into the role the Celtics envisioned for Gallinari, so it would make perfect sense in Brad Stevens swooped in to add the veteran star in the coming weeks. I for one, am rooting for Carmelo Anthony in Celtics green next season.