Why the Lakers need to seriously look into reducing Carmelo Anthony’s playing time

Robert Marvi
6 Min Read

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony became close friends as standout high school players, and both of them entered the NBA as part of the famed 2003 draft.

For years, they had wished to play together on the same team, but it didn’t come to pass.

But this past summer, when the Los Angeles Lakers were assembling what they hoped would be a championship-caliber team, James called Anthony and told him that “the time is now.”

Unfortunately for them, it hasn’t panned out the way they envisioned – at least not yet.

There are many culprits for the Lakers’ disappointing 13-13 start, but one, at least to a certain extent, has to be Anthony.

Although he has had some big games where he has given the team a big lift, a good amount of the time he has been something of a liability.

Perhaps the time has come for L.A. to limit Anthony’s minutes for the good of the team.

The good

Through the first 26 games of the 2021-22 season, Anthony is averaging 28.0 minutes per game, which is fifth on the team. He has been a huge part of the Lakers’ bench, which, at times, has been very strong.

The Syracuse University product is shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from 3-point range, the latter of which is very impressive.

A little more than two years ago, Anthony wasn’t on any team’s roster following a failed stint with the Houston Rockets.

It looked like he had a fork stuck in his back, but the Portland Trail Blazers took a flyer on him, and he resurrected himself as a 3-point specialist.

On five occasions this year he has had at least 20 points, and his tendency to get blistering hot quickly has made him a fan favorite at Staples Center.

In 16 home games, he has certainly proved to be deserving of that love, as he has put up 15.1 points a game while hitting 48.6 percent of his shots and a borderline-ridiculous 49.0 percent of his 3-pointers.

The bad

This is where Anthony’s problems start. In 10 road games, he has really struggled, making only 35.0 percent of his shots and just 28.6 percent of his attempts from downtown.

He has largely been feast or famine this season, and there hasn’t really been any in-between.

What compounds this problem is that Anthony is a poor defender. He has never been known as a good defensive player, but that issue has grown worse with age and wear and tear.

Even worse, the former New York Knick doesn’t pass the ball much. He is what some would call a “black hole,” a player who usually shoots the ball when he gets his hands on it.

Anthony’s decision-making and basketball IQ are also lacking. A common sight is him catching the ball in 3-point territory and instantly jacking up a contested shot out of rhythm, even when he has not been hitting such shots all game.

He also isn’t the same bucket-getter in iso situations that he used to be several years ago when he was still in his prime.

Simply put, when Anthony isn’t hitting his shot, he is dead weight for the Lakers.

The bottom line

The Lakers really need to slash Anthony’s playing time, especially on nights when he isn’t hot offensively, or when he is getting lit up on the other end.

But a big problem the team has is its lack of forwards with legitimate length and size off the bench.

Other than Anthony, James and Anthony Davis, L.A. has had to make do with 6-foot-4 Talen Horton-Tucker and 6-foot-5 Kent Bazemore playing the 3, and it doesn’t have many others who can comfortably play the 4.

With the plethora of talented star forwards across the NBA, this lack of depth in the frontcourt has been problematic.

The debut of veteran forward Trevor Ariza may ease this problem somewhat. At 6-foot-8, he has always been known as a good defender who can rotate over and make plays on the ball.

However, Ariza, who is making his way back from ankle surgery, is 36 years of age, and it’s an open question whether he has enough left in the tank to make an impact.

Most would agree that the Lakers’ biggest need personnel-wise is an athletic 3-and-D forward who will be active and energetic, whether it’s Ariza or someone else.

A player (or two) like that would give the Lakers the luxury of subbing Anthony out whenever his play isn’t up to par.

At the end of the day, however, if the team turns things around, he will have a shot at the championship ring that has always eluded him, whether he becomes more consistent or not.

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Robert is a native of Santa Monica, Calif., and a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been an avid NBA fan since he was a little kid in the mid '90s and fell in love with the Nick Van Exel-led Lakers teams. He truly cherishes the Kobe Bryant-era of Lakers basketball and the five world championships that came with it, and is looking forward to the team's next NBA title.