Damian Lillard: Blazers Would've Made 2019 Finals If They Had Carmelo Anthony

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2020

Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, left, speaks with guard Damian Lillard, right, during a time out in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
Steve Dykes/Associated Press

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said Friday the team could have reached the 2019 NBA Finals if Carmelo Anthony was on the roster.

"He should have been here three years ago," Lillard told reporters. "We get on his case about that all the time. I feel like we could have been in the Finals last year if we had him."

The Blazers advanced to last year's Western Conference Finals before getting swept by the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, who lost to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals.

Portland has lacked a reliable third scorer in recent years, and that was on full display despite their success in the 2019 postseason. Lillard and backcourt partner CJ McCollum combined to average 51.6 points during the playoff run, but nobody else on the roster averaged more than 11.4 points (Enes Kanter).

Anthony has never been an elite defender, and he's no longer the high-end scorer he was during his peak years with the New York Knicks, which included a scoring title for the 2012-13 season. However, he can still provide a significant offensive spark in the right role.

The 36-year-old Syracuse product has seemingly found it with the Blazers, especially since the 2019-20 season resumed at the Walt Disney World complex near Orlando, Florida. He's averaged 14 points while shooting 50 percent from three-point range across four games in the bubble, with several clutch shots to boot.

Anthony joined Portland in November after disappointing stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets over the past few years. Lillard said in September that he didn't expect Melo to join the team this season after failed recruiting efforts in 2017 and 2018.

The Blazers sit ninth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff berth, with four games left in their shortened regular season.

Between Anthony's presence and the return of frontcourt starters Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins from injuries, Portland could make some noise if it does qualify for the playoffs.

A star-studded first-round showdown with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers would await if they secure the last spot.