The Toronto Raptors are not immune to the NBA's injury plague. Could the arrival of Carmelo Anthony as a cheap scoring threat plug some holes in the roster?
The Toronto Raptors ran into their first losing streak of the season before finding themselves again against Chicago. This has left many wondering if the roster as currently constructed can contend in the playoffs when it matters most. The Raptors can only benefit from an upgrade. With Carmelo Anthony sitting at home, despite warnings against bringing him onboard, he may just be the talent enhancement the team needs.
Injuries can cause chaos to any team. Not even the Golden State Warriors are immune to struggles. Without Steph Curry they went winless in the Texas Triangle, losing to Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The Raptors currently have three players out of the lineup recovering from injury. C.J. Miles has a right adductor strain. OG Anunoby has a sprained right wrist. Norman Powell has a left shoulder strain. Though he isn’t expected to miss time, Kyle Lowry left Saturday’s game early with a right ankle injury. In order to avoid losing games to injury woes, a team needs to assemble great depth. This is where Melo fits in. At this point in his career, he certainly knows that his best usage is off the bench. His position there is up for debate. The Houston Rockets identified that Anthony is a liability on defence. In order to mitigate his defensive deficiencies, they played him as a power forward. Assuming the front office wanted to continue the experiment, Anthony would improve the forwards and immediately leapfrog Chris Boucher and Greg Monroe in the depth chart. On the Raptors, Melo would be best served to play as a swingman. Using him in this way means that he could step onto the court and immediately fill the holes left by injury. Even with his struggles, one can be sure that Nick Nurse would love to add a ten-time NBA All-Star to spell off players like Miles and Powell. Anthony would go a long way to improving depth and team success.
The cost to the Raptors would be insignificant. Since the Rockets have chosen to sideline Anthony, they are likely happy to receive any compensation in return for his services. The Raps may even choose to wait out the Rockets and pick up their man when he gets officially waived. In this case, they would only be paying his salary. The Atlanta Hawks are still paying Anthony $25.5 million this season after reaching a buyout agreement with him. This is why he is being paid the veteran’s minimum, $2.4 million. His contract only brings a $1.5 cap hit. This is a reasonable gamble for a player whose upside has shown him to be an elite player in the league. Compared to the paychecks Melo is cashing from Atlanta, this is an absolute steal.
It gets better. The collective bargaining agreement in the NBA has some interesting language within. The league has a "soft" cap, which allows teams to add a player of any contract size to their lineup. In order to entice teams to sign veterans, the league offers subsidies to a team who adds these players to their roster. As explained by Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ, “When a player has been in the NBA for three or more seasons and is playing under a one-year, 10-day or Rest-of-Season contract at the minimum salary, the league reimburses the team for part of his salary -- any amount above the minimum salary for a two-year veteran.” The reimbursement provision would mean that if the Raptors were to acquire Carmelo Anthony, they wouldn’t even need to pay his full salary. Toronto is already well above the soft cap, which means adding any player would have greater payroll implications, but in order to circumvent this, they could either make a trade or waive someone off the roster to acquire their man. The team is not yet paying repeat offenders fines. This will keep the luxury tax down and make adding a minimum salary this season, affordable.
Carmelo Anthony can still play basketball. Allen Iverson told Shams Charania of The Athletic, "He's going to find his way to adapt to the game and the best spot. I believe in him and I know he's strong enough."
“No way Melo should retire. I definitely think he should keep going. He got a lot left in the tank, man. It’s just got to be the right situation.” pic.twitter.com/m8dYOEPc9d
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 17, 2018
That situation might just be as a member of the Raptors bench mob. In ten games this season, Melo shot slightly below league average with field goals at 40%, which includes his 33% three-point shooting. In a depth role, these are very respectable numbers.
Nurse has chosen to run some iso plays at key moments of games this season. Though they have been run for Kawhi Leonard, it shows that the coach believes in the value of this style of play. Anthony has made this his bread and butter throughout his career. The name on the back of the jersey will ensure defenders respect him when he is on the floor. Melo can still create his own shot better than most and is always a threat to score. This means that he will draw defenders and open up space for his teammates.
The risk-reward for a player of Carmelo Anthony’s talent should have Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri talking. The question isn't whether the team should bring him in, but when.