3-on-3 Blazers
Remembering Kobe, Dame’s dominance and Melo’s future

Remembering Kobe, Dame’s dominance and Melo’s future

January 30, 2020

On this week's episode of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we talk about the death of Kobe Bryant, debate whether it's time for Blazers fans to believe in this team again, discuss Carmelo Anthony's desire to retire in Portland and make predictions for the next three games.

Get more Blazers and NBA coverage at kgw.com/blazers

1. The Blazers beat the Rockets, again. They've won five of eight. Dame got his first-triple double and is playing at the top of his game. Is this the start of another second-half surge for Portland? Should Blazers fans believe again?

Nate: We had a similar question two weeks ago when the Blazers beat the Rockets and my answer was no. And while my answer is still no, it’s not as definitive as my answer two weeks ago. So, what’s the difference? The Blazers beat another good team in Indiana. Trevor Ariza is an upgrade from Kent Bazemore. And Damian Lillard is playing out-of-this-world ball right now. With all that said, the Blazers are still just 3-3 since beating Houston two weeks ago. Granted, it was against a stretch of schedule that could have gone 1-5. But the Blazers need to start making up ground at some point on Memphis and not just holding serve. And as great as Damian Lillard is, I don’t see him averaging 43.7 points, 9.2 assists per game and shooting 50% from beyond the arc the rest of the season. The Blazers have needed Lillard to play at this historic level in order to stay afloat the last six games. If his production dips, even just back to regular All-Star level, I’m not sure the Blazers will be able to win enough to make up ground and make the playoffs.

Jared: Count me as a believer. In the past 13 games, the Blazers are 7-6, and their offense ranks fourth in the NBA. Their defense is still a train wreck, but they've been scoring enough to carry them to wins, even against good teams. In the past 13 games, Damian Lillard has been on a tear, averaging 34.8 points on 49.6% from the field and 45.8% from 3. The Blazers are getting contributions from Hassan Whiteside (16.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, 4.0 blocks), efficient scoring from CJ McCollum (19.3 points on 45.5% from the field and 41.1% from 3) and though it's been only three games, Trevor Ariza looks like he's just what the Blazers needed (finally, a real small forward!). Portland is also getting a little consistency from its bench. Over the past 10 games, Gary Trent Jr. and Nassir Little have actually helped the Blazers when they've been on the court lately. The Blazers haven't had many reserves you could say that about this season. In the past 10 games, Trent Jr. is averaging 10.3 points, shooting 42.3% from 3 and has a net rating of +7.2. Little's stats are fine even if they don't jump off the page, but his net rating is an impressive +6.2. Portland isn't likely to take off quite yet because their schedule remains tough. They face winning teams in eight of their next 12 games. But after that, the schedule gets much easier. Only seven of Portland's final 22 games are against winning teams. If Portland can keep their heads above water, they're poised for a really big run to end the season.

2. Carmelo Anthony told The Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers he wants to retire in Portland. Buy or sell? Anthony returns to the Blazers next season to finish his career in Portland.

Nate: I’m going to sell this. But compared to where we were when Melo first signed with the Blazers in November to where we are now shows just how much both Melo and the Blazers have benefited from this partnership. The reason I say no is because I think Melo will garner interest from more teams this offseason now that his reputation has been stabilized. And given the Blazers' cap situation, I could see Melo going somewhere else where he has an opportunity to potentially make more money. If it’s not money, then the biggest factor will be what Melo values. If he values winning and is open to being a scorer off the bench, then I could see him staying with Portland. That would certainly be a dimension the Blazers would love to have. In Eggers’ story, Melo talked about how hard the adjustment to going to the bench was for him in Houston. So, as happy as he has been in Portland this year, I can't help but wonder if he's really willing to accept a bench role with fewer minutes and scoring opportunities.

Jared: I've really enjoyed watching Carmelo Anthony on the Blazers this season. He's so fun to watch. I know he's inefficient. I know he's not an impactful defender. But I still really enjoy watching him play. He's also been great in the locker room and a great interview. The idea of Anthony returning next season to finish his career in Portland is appealing on some levels, but I'm going to have to sell this because I don't think the situation next season will match what Anthony wants. The reason this partnership has worked so well this season is because the Blazers had an available starting position, as many minutes as Anthony could handle, and a coach who wasn't going to try and turn Anthony into a player he isn't. I don't know if that seamless fit exists in Portland next season. Anthony's role would likely be as a high-scoring reserve, and I don't know if that's what he wants. It seems like he wants to be in a position where he can start and be a major part of a team's offense. And he may get better offers in free agency than what the Blazers want to pay him. There may be better fits elsewhere next season.

Nurk returns, Dame drops 61 and Blazers make their first trade of the season

Nurk returns, Dame drops 61 and Blazers make their first trade of the season

January 23, 2020

On this week's episode of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we talk about the Blazers trade with the Sacramento Kings, Damian Lillard's 61-point masterpiece, Jusuf Nurkic's return and make predictions for the next three games. We also answer your questions and play another rousing game of Rip It!

Get more Blazers coverage at kgw.com/blazers!

1. The Blazers made their first trade of the season, sending Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks to the Sacramento Kings for veteran forward Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel. What are your thoughts on the trade?

Jared: In a vacuum, this trade is fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. The Blazers saved $12 million in luxury tax payments in a season where they're not competing for anything more than a first-round exit from the playoffs. And they did get better. Not by much, but Ariza is a slightly better player than Bazemore, and the other pieces are a push at worst. At the very least, the 6-foot-8 Ariza (with a 7-2 wingspan!) is a true small forward, unlike the 6-4 Bazemore, who was playing out of position at that spot. The trade also improves Portland's ability to make moves this offseason and even into next season. Looking at the big picture, though, this trade is a bit of a letdown considering what Blazers' fans expectations were with Bazemore's expiring contract. The thought was that Portland would use these big expiring contracts at the trade deadline this season to add another star to Portland's roster. Ariza is not a star. It's not really the Blazers' fault that Bazemore performed so poorly or that the value of expiring contracts took a nosedive this season. This is probably the best return Portland could get for Bazemore in this market. But considering expectations for what would happen at this trade deadline were so high, the trade is a little underwhelming.

Orlando: The trade makes a lot of sense for a team that had the highest payroll in the league and is near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Shedding more than $12 million off the books and adding a player like Trevor Ariza who is expected to give you a similar amount of production that Bazemore was giving seems like a decent deal for ownership. We're going to see if the latter is true real soon. This deal doesn't move the needle and likely doesn't make the team better, but it is saving ownership some money. There are still moves to make ahead of the trade deadline and I’m reserving judgment until Feb. 6. This first move felt more like a team becoming a seller and punting on the season. At least Rip City got to witness the Anthony Tolliver game to beat the Hornets. It's too bad Bazemore didn’t work out in Portland, he seemed like the right fit and would flourish in this roster.   Sadly, I'm signing off from "Bazemore Island" for the final time this season. 

Nate: It doesn't really move the needle for me, positively or negatively. Bazemore's value, mostly because of his poor play, was not as high as we expected when the Blazers traded for him in the offseason. To me, the biggest upside of this trade is perhaps the Blazers could get more value for trading Ariza next year than they could for trading Bazemore this season. At the very least, Ariza provides the Blazers more flexibility in terms of whether they see him as a fit on next year's roster or not. If they don't, they can cut him in the offseason with minimal financial penalties. If he plays well down the stretch and Portland decides to keep him next season, then they once again have a movable expiring contract and potentially a helpful role player. Portland also created a $7 million trade exception, but as we know from the past, that doesn't necessarily mean Olshey will use it.

Are the Blazers really going to ’stand pat’ at the trade deadline?

Are the Blazers really going to ’stand pat’ at the trade deadline?

January 16, 2020

On this week's episode of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we talk about the win against the Houston Rockets and the upcoming NBA trade deadline. We also answer your questions and play a rousing game of Rip It!

More Blazers coverage at kgw.com/blazers

With three weeks to the deadline, the NBA trade rumor machine is whirring quietly, but there have been a couple reports about the Blazers in the past week. The Athletic's Sam Amick reported that sources close to the Blazers are downplaying Kevin Love as a viable trade option for Portland, and ESPN's Brian Windhorst said the message he's hearing that the Blazers are putting out there is they might "stand pat" at the deadline. Is this really going to be a quiet trade deadline for the Blazers?

Orlando: It would be a shame if this turns into a quiet trade deadline, but I still believe it won't be. The deadline is still a few weeks away and things haven't really even started happening league wide yet. Even though NBA insiders are saying this, we all know how the Blazers operate and not much gets out with them, especially when they are actively pursuing a deal or player. There's way too much time to accept the possibility nothing will happen by Feb. 6. 

Jared: With those two reports, there are a couple things that could be happening. First, Amick and Windhorst are good reporters so let’s assume their sources are sound. The first potential scenario is that the reports are true. Maybe the Blazers don't want to trade for Kevin Love. Maybe they plan to sit out trade season. Maybe ownership values the expiration of Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore’s large contracts more than any potential return. Maybe the market is sluggish. Maybe Whiteside and Bazemore don’t have a lot of trade value. The second potential scenario is that the Blazers don’t have a lot of leverage and Olshey is trying to generate some ahead of the deadline. Every executive knows the Blazers’ most available trade pieces are the expiring contracts of Whiteside and Bazemore. Other front offices may be trying to use that knowledge as leverage against the Blazers in trade conversations. Putting out a message that Portland is unengaged could prompt front offices to improve their trade offers to the Blazers as we get closer to the deadline. I don’t know which scenario is more likely, mainly because I don’t know what ownership goals are right now. If ownership wants to save money, all bets are off. If that’s not a priority for ownership right now, then I expect Neil Olshey will do everything he can to try to make trades that improve this team.

What will the Blazers do at the NBA trade deadline?

What will the Blazers do at the NBA trade deadline?

January 9, 2020

On this week's episode of KGW's 3 on 3 Blazers podcast, we debate whether injuries are the only reason for the Portland Trail Blazers' poor performance this season, talk about what kind of trades we expect the Blazers to make this season, make predictions for the next four games, answer YOUR questions and play another rousing game of Rip It!

Get more Blazers coverage at kgw.com/blazers

2. We’re now less than a month away from the trade deadline. We touched on this in our last podcast but let’s make it a question this time. Do you think the Blazers will make a move for a top-of-the-line forward (i.e. Kevin Love) or does the organization settle for role players to better fill out this roster?

Jared: I think the Blazers are more likely to make a big move at the deadline than trade for a role player or two. This is the moment for Portland's front office. They have these big expiring contracts, they have all their first-round draft picks going forward and they have some intriguing young players they can include in trade offers. If Portland strikes out trying to make a big move, I think they're more likely to keep Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore the rest of the season and go into the offseason with some cap space to work with. I still think the Blazers will ultimately be the team that trades for Kevin Love. Portland reportedly tried to trade for him two summers ago. He reportedly wants to play for the Blazers. There's some smoke there. If the Blazers don't trade for Love, the only other top-of-the-line forwards who might be on the market are Robert Covington and Danilo Gallinari. If Covington is available, he'll be a hot commodity and could generate a bidding war. If the Blazers were willing to take back Gorgui Dieng and include some draft compensation, they'd have a chance. Trading for Gallinari is a big risk because he could leave this summer as an unrestricted free agent. Do you give up a first-round pick if there’s a chance he doesn't stick around? Seems unlikely.

Orlando: I think we're all in agreement that a trade is coming. It makes the most sense. Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes says it's hard for him to believe Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside are in Portland after the trade deadline. That’s a lot of money that could return a big name like Kevin Love. I wonder who else is out there, though. The Blazers do a great job of not leaking much information, so it has many of us guessing. It seems like it's just as realistic they bring in multiple players that aren't All-Star caliber, but fill needs like defending and perimeter shooting. I won't be surprised when they go that route of settling for role players, but this is a chance to swing for the fences and bring in a player they likely couldn't get via free agency.

Nate: I feel my blood boiling again. With regards to the trade deadline, I’ve said the Blazers finally need to push their chips all in toward the goal of winning a championship over the next three years. I believe Portland needs to make a move for a top of the line forward in order to compete for a championship. They’re not going to get an opportunity in free agency or the draft to do that. But outside of Kevin Love, is there another high-level forward that will be available? There may not be. So, I think Olshey will ultimately go with filling out the roster with role players. And if that happens, Blazers fans should be disappointed. Even with a deep bench, I don’t believe a starting lineup of Nurkic, Collins, Hood, McCollum and Lillard can compete with the LeBron and Anthony Davis-led Lakers or the Kawhi Leonard, Paul George-led Clippers.

Do the Blazers have the best backcourt in the NBA?

Do the Blazers have the best backcourt in the NBA?

December 19, 2019

On this week's episode of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we discuss what has been going right for Portland lately (other than an easier schedule), debate whether the Blazers have the best backcourt in the NBA, and make predictions for the next SEVEN games. Plus, we answer YOUR QUESTIONS, and play a special Holiday Edition of Rip It!

MORE BLAZERS COVERAGE AT kgw.com/blazers

Buy or Sell: Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum make up the best backcourt in the NBA this season. Explain.

Nate: This season, I'm buying. The only other three backcourts I considered were Houston's James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Boston's Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown, and Toronto's Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. All three of those other backcourts are new this season playing together and don't have the long-term consistency of Lillard and McCollum. That's one of the reasons I'm going to say the Blazers' backcourt is the best in the NBA this season. Damian Lillard is having one of the best seasons of his career, and you can make the argument that CJ McCollum, after a slow start to the season, is playing the best basketball of his career. Over the last 19 games, McCollum is averaging 23.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4 assists and shooting 49% from the field, all of which would be career-highs if he could keep up that pace for the rest of the season. Lillard and McCollum have also kept the Blazers afloat despite the injuries that have taken place all around them. 

Jared: The competition is in Houston with James Harden and Russell Westbrook; Boston with Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown; and Toronto with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. I'm a disciple of ESPN's Real Plus-Minus and their ratings finally came out this week. Lillard and McCollum rank 13th and 14th overall, and in RPM wins (the estimated number of wins each player has contributed to their team's win total on the season) they rank eighth (McCollum) and ninth (Lillard). So, according to RPM wins, the Blazers have the best point guard in the game (narrowly edging Ben Simmons) and the second-best shooting guard (well behind Harden). All due respect to the duos in Boston and Toronto, but I think Lillard and McCollum are better than both (and the data backs that up). So it comes down to Harden and Westbrook. Though I think Lillard and McCollum are both better than Westbrook, Harden is so much better than everyone else that it gives Houston the nod. Case in point: The total RPM wins for Lillard and McCollum is 5.5. James Harden's RPM wins alone is 5.32. Add in Westbrook's 0.67 wins and Houston's duo edges Portland's. But just barely and only because Harden is so dominant.

Orlando: They definitely deserve to be in the discussion and have been one of the best backcourts for years now. Dame is arguably the best point guard and leader in the league, while CJ continues to be a rising star in this league, but I can't ignore the fact that this team is 12-16. Is it fair? Probably not, but I have a hard time putting them on top when I look at team success. Would you put them ahead of Russell Westbrook and James Harden? I have a hard time doing that right now. You've got two MVP level players getting it done in Houston. Their stats smash what the Blazers are doing in most categories and the Rockets are winning games.

MEET THE 3-ON-3 BLAZERS TEAM

  • Jared Cowley is a digital producer who writes about the Blazers and other topics for KGW.com. Jared has written about the Jazz and Warriors as a sports editor at two daily newspapers.
  • Nate Hanson is a digital producer who contributes to KGW.com’s coverage of the Blazers, Ducks, Beavers and high school sports.
  • Orlando Sanchez is the sports anchor and reporter for KGW News, Sports Sunday and Friday Night Flights. Orlando has covered multiple NBA Finals, NCAA Basketball Tournaments and World Series.
Is Kevin Love the right fit for the Blazers?

Is Kevin Love the right fit for the Blazers?

December 12, 2019

On KGW's 3-on-3 Blazers podcast this week, we discuss the loss of Rodney Hood and the trade rumors linking Kevin Love and the Blazers. We also make predictions for the next three games, talk about Jusuf Nurkic's eventual return, answer your questions, and play another rousing game of Rip It!

More Blazers coverage at kgw.com/blazers

2. Let’s talk about Kevin Love, who is the potential trade target most often linked to the Blazers. First a question and then a prediction: Should the Blazers trade for Kevin Love? Will the Blazers trade for Kevin Love?

Orlando: Kevin Love is the type of caliber player the Blazers should be seeking. He checks a lot of boxes. He's an all-star talent at a position the Blazers could use depth, he has championship pedigree and he's got multiple years remaining on his contract. My greatest concern would be durability, he's got a history of missing games due to injury and I would be a little concerned about availability over the next couple of seasons. It wouldn't be option No. 1 for me, but I think it could work out well for Portland. Do I think it will happen? It depends how much Cleveland truly wants to blow it up. If reports are true about their asking price, there's no way he ends up in Rip City because I don't believe Neil Olshey wants to part ways with promising young talent.   

Nate: The Blazers should not trade for Kevin Love … yet. I think Portland needs to make a move to acquire a top of the line forward in order to be an NBA title contender in the 2020-21 season, which is the franchise’s goal. Adding Love would certainly put the Blazers in a better position to contend over the next year or two. But, with Love’s age and injury concerns, I’m not sure he will be the piece that best gives Portland the opportunity to be a contender. It’s still early in the NBA season and some teams may not yet be willing to part with an asset or two that would better fill Portland’s needs. At the same time, the Blazers can’t let the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore go to waste. The type of player the Blazers need won’t be available in free agency, and even if they were, they wouldn’t come to Portland anyways. If at the end of January or early February, Kevin Love is the best option for the Blazers, then yes, they need to acquire him. They’ve got to push their chips all in at some point. Ultimately, I don't think they will on Love.

Jared: Love comes with a lot of risk. He's 31. He's been injured a lot. He's missed an average of 35 games the past three seasons, including 60 games last season. He's going to make about $30 million each of the next three seasons. He's never been much of a defender (though he's better than his reputation; he can be a good team defender). But he also comes with a lot of upside, especially playing with this Portland squad. He's a great volume 3-point shooter. He will space the floor for Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. He's a great rebounder, which means when he's paired with Nurkic, he'd help the Blazers recapture their rebounding dominance. And he's a good playmaker. When Dame gets trapped, Love would be a great release valve. Taking into consideration all of it, I think Kevin Love would be worth the risk. The Blazers should try to maximize Lillard's prime and I think Love would help in that endeavor. If all it would take is a first-round pick (and the matching salary) to acquire Love, I don't see why the Blazers wouldn't make it happen.

Carmelo Anthony and the winning Blazers

Carmelo Anthony and the winning Blazers

December 5, 2019

On this week's episode of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we discuss Carmelo Anthony's impact on the Portland Trail Blazers, who are suddenly winning games again. We also talk about what has impressed us most about the Blazers' performance over the past five games, debate whether the team can sustain its recent success, and make predictions for the next three games, including Friday's big game against the Lakers.

MORE BLAZERS COVERAGE at kgw.com/blazers

1. What has impressed you most about the Blazers over the past five games?

Nate: Carmelo Anthony’s consistency and the Blazers' offense suddenly resembling the top five offense we've become accustomed to seeing over the last couple seasons. Last week, we discussed whether we believed Melo could average as much as 18 points per game. Orlando and I thought that was too much, but Jared believed it could be his ceiling. Over these last five games, he's averaged 19 points per game and has been an efficient shooter. Melo's production, and the threat he brings has transformed an offense that looked stagnant prior to his arrival. Over these five games, Portland's offensive rating is back in the top five and they have the third-best shooting percentage in the league. You can argue they've played poor competition, which is fair, but the Blazers weren't putting up these numbers against bad teams before Melo’s arrival. Damian Lilllard is only averaging 21 points per game and the Blazers offense is firing on all cylinders. Lillard has averaged 8 assists per game, which shows he is finding his teammates in spots where they can succeed.

Jared: What has impressed me the most has been the Blazers' high-scoring offensive balance. Against the Kings, CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, Hassan Whiteside and Carmelo Anthony all scored 20 points or more. The last time that happened was in the 2015 playoffs with Lillard, McCollum, Nic Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge achieving the feat, according to Mike Tokito. What's been most impressive is how close the Blazers have been to doing that on multiple occasions over the past five games. Against the Thunder, Lillard, McCollum and Whiteside all scored more than 20 and Anthony was one point away with 19 points. And against Chicago, Lillard, McCollum and Anthony all scored more than 20, and Rodney Hood nearly joined them with 19 points. Whiteside only had eight points in that game, but we'll forgive him. He was busy racking up 15 points and a franchise-record 10 blocks. Adding one more high-octane scorer in Carmelo Anthony to this lineup has been exactly what this offense needed. After years of watching Blazers other than Lillard and McCollum struggle to support the Blazers' two stars on offense, this is a breath of fresh air.

2. The Blazers have won four of five, and though they surely won't win 80% of their games going forward, do you expect the Blazers to sustain the improved level of play they've shown over the past five games? Has the team righted the ship?

Nate: If the Blazers stays healthy, they can sustain this level of play, they have righted the ship and will make the playoffs. That's right, I'm back on board. Last week, I talked about all the things Portland needs to happen on a nightly basis in order to win games. That has continued for another week. Melo is another offensive weapon the defense must respect. The Blazers have gotten the best five-game stretch from Hassan Whiteside that they’ve had all season. He appears to have a stronger connection with Lillard and better understands what is expected of him in the flow of this offense. The bench continues to fill their identified roles and has kept the Blazers afloat, so the starting five can build leads and put away games. With that said, this team is still a long way away from their preseason goal of being a Western Conference contender. Right now, I see Portland as a 7 or an 8 seed, which would result in an early playoff exit. But compared to how dire things were two weeks ago, it's remarkable we can think of the Blazers as a legitimate playoff team.

Jared: Yes. What the Blazers are doing now is losing to elite teams like the Clippers and beating mediocre teams (like the Thunder and Kings) and bad teams (like the Bulls). Portland wasn't doing that earlier in the season. They were losing to seemingly everybody. I think the team has more offensive balance and firepower now, which will help them overwhelm less-talented teams. A key to the Blazers' success last season was that it beat up on the bad teams, and I think this new-look version of the Blazers can do that the rest of this season. That will be good enough to put Portland in the driver's seat of the lower rungs of the Western Conference playoff ladder. Currently, they're in ninth place, just a game behind the eighth-place Suns, two games behind the seventh-place Timberwolves, and three games behind the sixth-place Jazz. Portland is now good enough to challenge those teams for the six seed, and wait to see what happens with potential deadline moves in February, and the anticipated returns of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins shortly after. The future looks promising.

Does Carmelo Anthony bring new hope to Rip City?

Does Carmelo Anthony bring new hope to Rip City?

November 27, 2019

On this week's episode of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we discuss Carmelo Anthony's impact on the team, debate whether the Blazers can turn their season around, and make predictions for the next four games.

1. Carmelo Anthony played his best game in more than a year against the Bulls. Can this kind of production or close to it be expected going forward?

Jared: Anthony had 25 points and eight rebounds against the Bulls. He won't average 25 and eight going forward, but I do think he can maintain or increase his production through his first four games with the Blazers. He's averaging 16 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and nearly a steal per game. He's shooting inefficiently from the field (39.1%) and efficiently from the 3-point line (39.1%). I don't see why he can't keep up that level of production. I'll say this: He's been much better than I expected. It's obvious that he worked really hard during his year away from the NBA. He came back ready, which is really impressive. He's playing 29.5 minutes per game, and it doesn't look like he'll have any trouble maintaining those minutes (or even playing a few more). That's so important for the Blazers because with this roster, Portland desperately needs someone who can play big minutes at power forward. He's in a great situation in Portland. He's starting, he's playing all of his minutes at his optimal position on the floor, and he's been given the autonomy to play to his strengths. He's not being typecast in a standstill catch-and-shoot role that doesn't really fit him. The Blazers are asking him to take catch-and-shoot 3s, but they're also letting him operate in isolation and in the post. Unlike his last two stops, in Oklahoma City and Houston, the Blazers are letting Melo be Melo, and so far that's been a good thing.

Orlando: Carmelo Anthony put together his best game since dropping 28 on the Bulls a year ago. If the Blazers are going to play Chicago more often, this would be an easy yes to the question, but that’s not how it works. Anthony has proven he still belongs in the league and fits the Blazers style of play, but Monday's game feels like a best-case scenario. He's going to have nights where he goes off and there will be off nights. I want to see how he will help the team when the shot isn't falling at a high rate. I think it's a huge ask to expect him to have that kind of production every game, but there's no doubt he can make a difference in Portland. I enjoyed seeing the team rally around Carmelo and genuinely celebrate his first big game with the Blazers. That's a good sign moving forward.

Nate: No. And I'm not saying that to rain on Melo Fever. It's just not realistic. With that said, I don't think his performance against the Bulls will be an isolated highlight. I think he'll have games when he's hot and aggressive and we'll see him excel. But we won't see it on a consistent basis. In his first three games, Anthony averaged 13 points while shooting just 34% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc. You can blame it on rust and being thrust into a roster with teammates he's never played with before. But I don't think that rough stretch can be completely discounted. Do I expect him to consistently be as poor shooting as he was during that stretch? No. But expectations should be in between the great performance we saw against the Bulls and the previous three subpar performances. I think 13-15 points per game and 40% shooting should be what teammates, coaches and fans expect from him on a nightly basis. That contribution would be a major step up from what Portland was getting from the power forward position before Anthony joined the team.

READ MORE: https://www.kgw.com/article/sports/nba/blazers/is-there-a-new-hope-in-rip-city/283-2a36d924-4be3-4e2e-8e66-716921c4c265

Can Blazers fans stay Melo as the losses mount?

Can Blazers fans stay Melo as the losses mount?

November 21, 2019

On this week's episode of KGW's 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we discuss Carmelo Anthony's debut with the Blazers and what Portland can do to start winning games again.

Get more Blazers coverage at https://www.kgw.com/blazers!

The Blazers have been one of the most-talked about teams in the NBA this week and it's not because of their stunningly poor 5-10 record.

No, it's all about Carmelo Anthony. The Blazers signed Anthony to shore up their ineffective power forward rotation, finally ending the superstar's one-year absence from the NBA.

Anthony made his debut with the Blazers on Tuesday and scored 10 points in 24 minutes. Reviews of Anthony's performance were mixed. Many said he looked like Carmelo Anthony, for better or worse, and that he looked as good as one might expect from a player competing against NBA players for the first time in more than a year.

The question of Anthony's eventual impact on this team has yet to be determined, but the general consensus of national voices was captured well by The Ringer's Dan Devine, who wrote that Anthony, with all of his strengths and weaknesses, is "still Portland’s best choice at the 4 even after a year on ice."

1. What did you think of Carmelo Anthony's debut with the Blazers?

Nate: It was hard to evaluate because of the absence of Damian Lillard. But it was pretty much what I expected. There was rust with his shooting, and he turned the ball over five times. After all, it was his first NBA game in a year. To me he flashed, especially early in the game, why the Blazers brought him on. He can make outside shots and garners more respect from defenders than anyone else the Blazers have on their roster outside of Lillard and McCollum. Melo's main job will be to knock down open perimeter shots and find buckets in the post. If he can do those two things, that may make defenses think twice when they’re pressuring the star Blazers guards to get the ball out of their hands. As we discussed last week, Melo could be a positive addition to the Blazers' roster, and it doesn't have much of an impact on their wins and losses. I think we also saw that on Tuesday night.

Jared: Carmelo Anthony was better than his stats indicate. Some of those box score numbers were ugly. He missed 10 of 14 shots. Had five turnovers and five fouls. Was a team-worst -20 in plus-minus. The advanced stats didn't look good, either. By the eye test, though, I thought Anthony looked OK. He hit two of his three 3-point attempts, all of which were of the catch-and-shoot variety. The two 3-pointers that Anthony hit were wide open (no defender within 6 feet). I liked how aggressive he was attacking the rim. He missed five of six shots in the restricted area and in the paint, but that's an anomaly. His last full season in the league, with the Thunder, he shot 56% at the rim and 45% in the paint. The best version of Anthony for the Blazers would be if he's connecting on open catch-and-shoot 3s and scoring at the rim. Anthony looked lost at times on both ends of the court, but that's understandable. CJ McCollum said that Anthony learned just five of the Blazers' plays before the game, and the Portland playbook has more than 100 plays and counters. Anthony looks like he can still play in the NBA.

Orlando: Enjoyed all the hype leading up to Carmelo Anthony's debut with the Blazers. It's been a long time since Rip City had a star of his magnitude join the team. Even people that don’t follow basketball have heard the name. On the court, it went how you would expect it to go for a good player who hasn't played in the league in over a year. He showed that he can still get buckets and can be a threat offensively. Anthony also missed a lot of shots and didn't get some calls that probably would have improved his shooting percentage. He also led the team in turnovers and looked like a player that wasn't on the same page as his teammates on both sides of the ball, which makes sense because he hadn't even gone through a shoot-around with the Blazers. What impressed me was that he came off the street, started for the Blazers and logged 24 minutes of work. It's clear he'll make his mark on this team over the coming weeks. One thing I can say for certain, the Blazers just got more interesting.

2. What's the most important thing the Blazers need to do in order to start winning games?

Jared: Other than get healthy? Let's focus on the Blazers' 22nd-ranked defense. The best thing the Blazers can do to shore up their defense is start rebounding that ball. Look at their defensive rebounding percentage for the past two seasons:

2019: 70.4% (27th)
2018: 73.9% (8th)

That’s a huge difference. On defense, the Blazers are still defending well initially. They rank 11th in opponent effective field goal percentage. But the Blazers give up a glut of offensive rebounds and teams are taking advantage, scoring 16.3 second-chance points per game, which leads the league. Last season, the Blazers grabbed 73.9% of available defensive rebounds. This season, the Lakers are matching that percentage and they're giving up just 11.4 second chance points per game, which is 4.9 per game fewer than the Blazers. If Portland allowed 4.9 fewer points, they'd be giving up 110.4 points per game, which would rank in the middle of the league. Even if the Blazers didn't improve their offense at all, they'd have a point differential of +1.5, which projects to a 54.9% winning percentage, which would put the Blazers' record at 8-7, which looks a lot better than 5-10. Grab more defensive rebounds, win more games.

Orlando: First and foremost, the Blazers need Damian Lillard to be healthy. If he's not out there, they're not winning games. It's that simple. Defensively they've been bad, falling in the bottom 10 of the league in key defensive statistical categories. I think they can overcame that with better offense. Their offensive efficiency has taken a step back from last season. Part of the problem is implementing a whole new cast of characters and the struggle to find cohesion or a flow to the game. All of the early injuries and players being banged up have made the growing pains even more difficult to get past. These guys have to settle into their roles soon and start to find some success on offense or this season is going to get away from them in a hurry.

Nate: The obvious answer here is improved defense, especially in the fourth quarter. I addressed their struggles in that area last week, but I'm going to attack it at a different angle this week. They need to find a closing rotation. The Blazers' starting lineups have mostly had success. But they've had trouble finding a closing lineup. The most utilized lineup at the end of the game has been Whiteside, Hood, Bazemore, McCollum and Lillard. That group has a -100 net rating in the fourth quarter this season. No, that is not a typo. They've been atrocious offensively and defensively, which further explains the Blazers coming up short in so many close losses. On the bright side, the Blazers replaced Bazemore with Little at the end of the San Antonio game, and although it was a one-game sample size, that lineup had much more success. I'll be interested to see what closing lineup head coach Terry Stotts goes with in the next close game.

3. The Blazers wrap up their six-game road trip with three more games between today and Monday. They play the Milwaukee Bucks (11-3) tonight, the Cavaliers (4-10) on Saturday and the Bulls (5-10) on Monday. Which games do the Blazers win and which do they lose?

Orlando: Just like I started question 2, I'm assuming Damian Lillard will be back on the court after the Milwaukee game. After they lose to a really good Bucks team, I like their chances at Cleveland and Chicago. I'll take Portland to go 2-1 this week.

Nate: Without Lillard, the Blazers lose to Milwaukee, no doubt. And while Portland should win both games against Cleveland and Chicago, my gut tells me they won't. The Blazers have had games that look like easy wins on paper and have turned out to be losses, all of them on the road (Warriors, Kings, Pelicans). I'm going to say Portland beats Cleveland, but they lose to Chicago and finish the road trip 2-4. I don't believe the Bulls are better than Portland. But the Blazers have already piled up inexplicable losses and I'm going to peg them for another one here as they look forward to the end of a long road trip and coming back to Portland.

Jared: The Blazers will lose to the Bucks. Milwaukee is one of the best teams in the NBA. The Blazers are not. But Portland should beat both the Cavs and the Bulls. The Cavaliers are 2-4 and are being outscored by 6.5 points per 100 possessions at home. The Bulls are 3-5 and are being outscored by 3.5 points per 100 possessions at home. Portland hasn’t been a terrible road team this season (except against the Rockets). The Blazers have played poorly of late, losing eight of their past 10 games. But they're not as bad as the Cavaliers and the Bulls, so I'm picking those two games as wins for Portland. If it plays out this way, the Blazers will be 7-11 at the end of a brutal 18-game stretch to start the season and will get to play 12 of their next 16 at home to close out the year. That home-heavy schedule gives the Blazers a chance to turn things around and climb their way back to .500.

SEASON PREDICTIONS RECORDS

Orlando: 9-6
Nate: 9-6
Jared: 8-7

MEET THE 3-ON-3 BLAZERS TEAM

Jared Cowley is a digital producer who writes about the Blazers and other topics for KGW.com. Jared has written about the Jazz and Warriors as a sports editor at two daily newspapers. Follow Jared on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jaredcowley

Nate Hanson is a digital producer who contributes to KGW.com’s coverage of the Blazers, Ducks, Beavers and high school sports. Follow Nate on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NHans_KGW.

Orlando Sanchez is the sports anchor and reporter for KGW News, Sports Sunday and Friday Night Flights. Orlando has covered multiple NBA Finals, NCAA Basketball Tournaments and World Series. Follow Orlando on Twitter at https://twitter.com/orlandokgw.

Portland Trail Blazers sign Carmelo Anthony!

Portland Trail Blazers sign Carmelo Anthony!

November 15, 2019

The Portland Trail Blazers signed Carmelo Anthony! Will Melo make the Blazers better? Is he a good fit in Portland? What will his role be? What can Blazers fans expect to see from him this season? We break it all down on this EMERGENCY POD!

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