Brief panic after a non-contact injury sustained on Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers now has the Phoenix Suns hit with an early bout of adversity in the form of injury.
Third-year forward Cam Johnson has sustained a right meniscus tear and had surgery to snip the injury early this week, enabling him to return sooner than had he gone the repair route.
The North Carolina product will be sidelined for “one to two months,” as per ESPN’s Brian Windhurst.
In light of that news, which is also compounded by the absence of Jae Crowder, or even a return for the disgruntled veteran forward, the Suns have taken a severe hit to their wing group.
An idea I’ve quietly kept in my back pocket, and felt more and more sensical as the Crowder’s situations grew untenable, is for the Phoenix Suns to bring in an evolved scorer from free agency to infuse the bench with versatility, shot creation, floor spacing, and more veteran experience.
Carmelo Anthony could fill some needs for the Phoenix Suns
Carmelo Anthony is the answer, at least in the short term. The 6’7 forward has bounced around the last five seasons, but his most recent stint in Los Angeles was one that was rather impressive given his role.
The Lakers were a mess last season, but it was hardly the fault of Anthony in any capacity.
The veteran swingman, in a 26-minute role, averaged 13.3 points per game while shooting 52.1% from two and 37.5% from three on 5.8 attempts.
Even more, he shot 37.5% on his catch-and-shoot opportunities, proving still viable enough when stashed one pass away, while also plenty capable of creating his own looks from the post or in the midrange, shooting 49.4% from two on pull-ups.
From the corners, he was at a solid 44.7% clip on a career-high mark in attempts and makes per game.
Above the break, he was at 35.8% with 90.4% of his attempts from there coming via an assist, staying disciplined in his evolved role.
He operated, on less volume, in a manner conducive to a winning environment, and as a weapon that could certainly exceed in production what his role would suggest at any given moment.
He had 23 games last season where he scored 16 or more points, including 11 where he was north of the 20-point threshold.
For a middling, presently ranked 12th in scoring, bench unit, they could use a shot in the arm in the form of versatility, unbashful shot-taking, and shot creation from all three levels.
Anthony would be able to exist well in the fold with a Cameron Payne type of guard who pushes the pace and gets to the rim or can attract the attention of two on his rim attacks. He would also be able to exist well inside-out, or outside-in with Jock Landale.
Anthony’s versatility can be useful right now
Add to that the fact that he can be padded or heavily protected defensively by being staggered in the rotations by the versatility and defensive activity of Mikal Bridges and Torrey Craig, or even Josh Okogie, with rim protection galore in the likes of Ayton, Biyumbo, and Landale, and you see just how his weaknesses can be contained by the Suns.
Even more, past weaponizing him as a spacer, he’s more than capable of existing as a hub for dribble handoffs or an assortment of the elbow actions Monty likes, in pick and pop (especially against drop coverage), excels in transition as a catch-and-shoot trigger man on hit-aheads (1.39 PPP on 50.4% in transition), can tandem exploit switching bench units with Landale in the post or mid-post, and gives them a late-clock option to go to in a pinch.
He also shot 53.6% with under seven seconds left on the shot clock from two, and 50% when the clock trickled under four seconds.
I’m just imagining Spain pick-and-roll with him as the rip-screen man while Payne handles and either Bismack Biyombo or Landale rolls. No switching means Biyombo is open or Payne is blowing by, switching means Anthony or Payne has the advantage to attack, and Anthony could always hit the attempt on the hit-back at the dome.
Bringing in Carmelo Anthony would give the Suns a body that can be of service and production that would outweigh any contract given to him in this present state.
No, he is not the post-up powerhouse or prolific midrange assassin that he once was. However, he is a steady scoring hand that gives defenses more to think about, and can still have heaters that remind you just who he was as a scorer for 15+ seasons.
He is also able to pass off of the walking advantage that he is in triple threat, with great ability to process defenders pre-helping to provide support to any initial defender tasked with harassing him on mid-post touches.
It’s a win-win proposition as you supply your rotation with a proven scorer, even in his present version, relieve the stress put on your wing rotation, and add a dynamic in scoring and offensive versatility that did not exist even when whole for your bench.
As the dust settles on the Cam Johnson news and the Jae Crowder situation remains unresolved, doing the team a solid in bringing in some external help that’s been proven to thrive in a role like this one would present, would be extremely helpful in putting a band-aid over some of what’s missing in this window of time.