For the past few seasons, the Cavs have relied on players like Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Lauri Markkanen and Cedi Osman for wing minutes, all with varying degrees of success and availability. It’s no secret that the Cavaliers need some help on the wing, both in depth and overall productivity.
Would a future Hall of Famer make sense? If the Cavaliers are looking for some decent production from a wing, Carmelo Anthony is one of the few names left on the market.
Over the past two seasons, Anthony, 38, has averaged 13.4 points per game for the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers. He shot 40% from three with the Trail Blazers and then 37.5% with the Lakers. By comparison, the combination of Okoro, Wade, Markkanen and Windler shot 34.2% from deep as a collective, with Markkanen being the only player to average double digits of the group. Shooting, considering prime isolation god Carmelo no longer exists, is what he’d be asked to do most of the time.
On defense, Anthony will not be a major contributor. According to basketball reference, Anthony’s defensive win shares last season were 1.4, which ranked 165th in the league and he was a below average defensive player based on estimated plus/minus (-0.6), according to Dunks and Threes. This is an area in which other Cavs players can contribute to offset that. Kevin Love, another player who primarily plays and guards on the perimeter like Anthony, will have better defensive numbers. Last season, Love’s defensive win shares finished at 2.5 and had an estimated plus/minus of 1.8.
Anthony will not fill the hole at defense that the Cavs still need from a wing player. But, the Cavs possess better defensive options that could offset Anthony’s leaky defense. His possible role might look the most like Love’s, who, like Anthony, is an off-the-bench shoot-first player that the team will look for primarily to score points. Anthony is also a four now, not really the three he was at his apex.
With Anthony approaching 40 years of age, he would likely be signed to a minimum deal, which is all the Cavs can afford unless they dip into the luxury tax. Making just over $2.6 million last season with the Lakers, the Cavaliers would not have to break the bank in order to accommodate him, especially after signing Darius Garland to a franchise-record extension and acquiring Donovan Mitchell, who is set to rake in nearly $31 million this season.
To acquire Mitchell, the Cavaliers included the aforementioned Markkanen and recently drafted forward Ochai Agbaji, with other assets, to the Utah Jazz. Agbaji would have at least competed for minutes coming out of Kansas and offered a longer term option than Anthony.
Post-Mitchell trade, the Cavaliers have high hopes for the upcoming 2022-23 season, one that could see the first Eastern Conference Finals appearance without LeBron James. It would not be expected that Anthony plays large minutes should the Cavs get into the playoffs. Anthony does have 83 games of postseason experience, scoring 23.1 points per game in that stretch, however, even with Anthony’s experience, at 38 years old, his play could be limited to garbage time and as the Cavs advance further into the playoffs, his minutes could be cut altogether.
Mitchell and Garland, with the help of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, is a nice group for a starting lineup, but adding Anthony with Kevin Love as scorers off the bench could alleviate the hole that the team has when it comes to wing scoring.
Playing off the bench is something that Anthony has embraced in recent years, at least with Damian Lillard in Portland and LeBron James in Los Angeles. It’s not clear if he’d want to do the same with the Cavs, a team without an older, established superstar setting the tone. But if he is, perhaps he’s worth a look.