Are Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony Joining the King in LA?

Damian Lillard leaves the arena
Does this look like a happy camper to you? Photo by nikk_la (flickr) [CC License].
  • Rumors are swirling that Damian Lillard could join LeBron James in LA
  • Will Carmelo Anthony change his career arc by joining a contender? 
  • Can Damian Lillard push the Lakers past the Warriors? 

The NBA has officially become the league that never sleeps thanks to its ridiculous 24/7 news cycle. No matter the time of day, there’s always something to capture the imagination of fans worldwide. The latest bit of scintillating gossip involves none other than the Lakers.

While talks continue between Los Angeles and San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard, Lakers brass may be stirring the pot in other circles, and potentially planning to pounce on others.

First, the stirring: Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard’s Twitter account became the subject of mass scrutiny when he responded to a question about being acquired by the Lakers like this:

A venture deeper into his timeline, and you’ll see that, this could be a little unsettling, if you’re a Blazers fan:

Could he be on the move? Perhaps. And Lillard would look awfully good in purple and gold.

Built in the mode of the last great James sidekick Kyrie Irving, he’s an explosive scorer and playmaker, who would thrive with the mere presence of James on the floor.

Irving’s Best Season with LeBron James vs Lillard’s Best Season

Kyrie Iriving
VS
Damian Lillard

25.2 Points 26.9
3.2 Rebounds 4.5
5.8 Assists 6.6
47.3 Field-Goal Percentage 43.9
40.1 Three-Point Percentage 36.1
90.5 Free Throw Percentage 91.6

Last season, Lillard was fourth in the NBA in scoring and tenth in assists. He also shot it better than 36% from deep on over eight attempts per content and was clutch at the stripe, where he shot 91.6%.

The numbers are nice, but more importantly, the guy is not afraid of the spotlight in big moments. Dame Time, it’s a real thing.

Combining Lillard, who was top-ten in fourth quarter scoring (6.6 ppg) with James, last season’s leading scorer in the fourth (and third in average at 7.5 ppg) would give the Lakers a puncher’s chance against anyone.

What Team Will Damian Lillard Be On?

Team Odds
Portland Trail Blazers 2/3
Los Angeles Lakers 2/1
FIELD 14/1

What will Damian Lillard do?

Scenario Odds
Play out his contract in Portland 1/1
Re-sign in Portland 10/1
Get traded at the deadline 3/2

And maybe now the pouncing. The latest news came down Friday from ESPN: The OKC Thunder, they of the massive payroll and unprecedented tax bill looming, announced they are parting ways with Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony had opted-in to his $27.9 million contract, but his reps and the Thunder are working on a way to end the association, whether through trade, the NBA’s stretch provision, or a combined buyout and stretch.

Suddenly, one of the top-20 scorers in NBA history is available.

Suddenly, one of the top-20 scorers in NBA history is available, and how many teams can use a go-to scorer who’s automatic in the mid-range and can punish smaller defenders on the block?

Carmelo Anthony New Team Odds

Team Odds
Houston Rockets 3/1
Los Angeles Lakers 3/1
Miami Heat 4/1
Toronto Raptors 17/3
Philadelphia 76ers 10/1
Golden State Warriors 24/1
FIELD 99/1

It’s also a show-me season for Anthony, who looked washed-up in OKC. He scored just 16.2 points a game, along with 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists, hitting just 40.4% from the field, and a more respectable 35.7% from beyond the arc.

If you’re Magic Johnson, this would be a tremendous value-add to the Lakers.

At this stage in his career, Anthony should be able to anchor a second unit, if he’s given the right pieces around him.

At this stage in his career, Anthony should be able to anchor a second unit, if he’s given the right pieces around him. Depending on the match-up and if he’s got it cooking, there’s potential seeing him in closing lineups.

It’s an opportunity he didn’t have in OKC, where he was essentially left to fend for himself, most times as a catch-and-shoot guy waiting for Russell Westbrook leftovers in the corner.

Carmelo Anthony Stat Projections

Over / Under Total
Points per game this season 19.5
Team wins this season 55.5
Minutes per game this season 29.5
Playoff Round wins this season 2.5

Does a Lillard-LeBron-Melo trio compete in the West? Yes.

Throw Kawhi Leonard or any other superstar into that mix, with whatever leftover youngsters and veteran pick-ups join them? You’re looking at a contender. The only question is, who is that missing superstar?

Next Superstar to Join LeBron James

Player Odds
Kawhi Leonard 2-3
Damian Lillard 6-1
Jimmy Butler 7-1
Klay Thompson 12-1
Kevin Durant 25-1
Anthony Davis 50-1
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Vancouver born and bred, Eric is a print and broadcast journalism graduate now based in TO. His current project involves getting his wife to join him on the couch this fall to watch football on Sundays from 1pm kickoff till the Sunday night game expires.