Damian Lillard’s recruitment of Carmelo Anthony continues.
Whether this particular continuation is deliberate or inadvertent, contrived or genuine, remains to be seen. But Lillard is now among the players who have taken issue with ESPN ranking Anthony as the 64th-best player in the league. As he told NBA.com’s David Aldridge:
“I do think that ranking Carmelo Anthony that low is crazy,” Lillard said. “It’s not the ranking; it’s just disrespectful. There’s not 30 players better than Carmelo; how can there be 60?”
Lillards comments are noteworthy because, well, he’s Lillard. And we know the Portland Trail Blazers would like to hammer out a trade for Melo. But he also told Aldridge he doesn’t care about these player-ranking whatchamacallits:
“I don’t care,” the Portland Trail Blazers’ two-time All-Star, Damian Lillard, said last week on the phone. “You should know I don’t care. I’m just going to talk my (bleep) because that’s what I do. I’ve always been given less, so I don’t pay it no mind.”
Er, so maybe he does pay it some mind? Or does he care more about the placement of others more than himself? He is among the NBA’s best behind-the-scenes leaders after all.
Or is this just a one-time thing, a call to topical action for something he deems particularly egregious?
Either way, Anthony, as Lillard imitates, is not a top-30 player anymore. If you want to slot him in the top 50, go ahead. But he’s 33, and we know enough about his play style, and the league’s direction, to understand there are at least three to four dozen players who profile as more valuable. Yes, it’s a numbers thing. If that makes you uncomfortable, whatever. Anthony remains one of the game’s best scorers—a top-20 offensive option who can ferry a shitty attack to respectability almost on his own. But his passing remains too inconsistent, and he’s not even a situationally okay defender these days.
Let’s leave it at this: Anthony is still a very good basketball player. Slotting him behind Lonzo Ball is pretty disrespectful. But if we were to re-rank ESPN’s list with a more favorable slant, it would turn out Anthony is closer to No. 64 than No. 30.