Damian Lillard: Carmelo Anthony Could Be Blazers' Starting SF with Ariza out

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2020

Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony reacts after making a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, March 10, 2020. The Blazers won 121-105. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
Steve Dykes/Associated Press

If Carmelo Anthony's last act as an NBA player comes during the league's Orlando restart, it'll likely be in the form of a return to his patented small forward spot. 

Blazers guard Damian Lillard said he expects Melo to stay in the starting lineup when the league returns after Trevor Ariza bowed out. 

"I could see us having a pretty big lineup out there," Lillard told reporters Wednesday.

With Jusuf Nurkic set to return for seeding games after missing the entire regular season, here is how Lillard envisions the Blazers lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Zach Collins
C: Jusuf Nurkic

Anthony has primarily played the 4 each of his last three NBA seasons, a move that reflects the future Hall of Famer's slowing foot speed and the proliferation of smaller lineups. Melo strongly resisted playing the 4 in the past despite excelling in the role during stints with Team USA.

While the Blazers signed Anthony in what amounted to an act of desperation, he has been better than anyone expected this season. He averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 37.1 percent from three while appearing in 50 games, all starts, before the coronavirus caused the league to shut down.

The Blazers will enter Orlando 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth playoff spot in the West. If seeds Nos. 8 and 9 finish within four games of one another at the end of the seeding games, they will enter a two-game playoff. 

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