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NBA Daily: Taking Stock In Carmelo Anthony

Now that we’re about a month into the Carmelo Anthony era in Portland, Matt John examines whether this experiment has benefited in the Trail Blazers’ favor so far.

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Carmelo Anthony’s return to the NBA last month caused a major divide among viewers.

When he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, optimists believed that Carmelo never really got a fair shot when he was with the Houston Rockets last season and would thrive in a different scheme. Pessimists believed that Carmelo’s struggles both with the Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder gave enough evidence that his prime was not only over, but that his effectiveness as a player was gone.

Now, with ‘Melo having played 13 games with the Blazers this season, we’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • He’s doing better in Portland than he did in Houston
  • He’s been an upgrade over Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver

Okay, that’s selling Carmelo pretty short there because those two “accomplishments” don’t really count for much these days. He flat-out stunk in Houston, so it’s best that we don’t revisit that disaster. Plus, Hezonja and Tolliver, while not scrubs, are both journeymen for a reason. Carmelo’s wildly impressed the masses because he’s done far more than what’s listed above.

For the contract Portland gave him when they brought him in, Carmelo has done a wonderful job given the circumstances. So wonderfully, in fact, that it didn’t take long for them to make sure he’d stay the whole season.

You would think this wouldn’t be surprising since it’s Carmelo Anthony for goodness sake. Lest we forget, the guy was out of the NBA for almost an entire year. Then we see what he’s been doing and ask ourselves, “How did nobody want this guy?”

‘Melo is averaging almost 17 points a game on 42/43/80 splits. He hasn’t been very efficient from the field as a whole, but his ability to still put the ball in the bucket has given Portland a necessary boost. Despite that he hasn’t been automatic night-in and night-out, his presence is proving to be a positive for the Blazers.

First, Carmelo has an overall net rating of plus-7.9 for Portland, good for third among players who have played at least 100 minutes behind, well, who do you think?

In fact, the three-man lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Carmelo is plus-8 when they’re on the floor together. Offensively, the three work quite well together. They post an excellent effective field goal percentage — 56.9 percent — as well as true shooting percentage — 60.3. They even have a solid assist-to-turnover ratio (2.05). Defensively, they allow 105.5 points per 100 possessions. That is as mediocre as it gets, but it far from nullifies what they can do on the offensive end as a trio, scoring 113.5 points per 100 possessions.

That group together makes the fourth-best three-man lineup on the team going by net rating. If that isn’t enough proof of ‘Melo’s good work, note that the three lineups ahead of Lillard-McCollum-Carmelo all have Carmelo in them.

But let’s backtrack for a second. The same Carmelo Anthony who struggled to make it work with Russell Westbrook and Paul George — and definitively failed to support James Harden and Chris Paul — is somehow thriving next to Dame and CJ? Two players who, as good as they are, don’t have the same reps as the aforementioned names?

The following theory may sound confusing, so bear with me here. The reason why Carmelo is playing better is that Portland is letting him play more of his style while also having his offense fit within the team’s offensive scheme.

Over the last two years, OKC and Houston both tried to turn Carmelo into more of a three-point marksman, which made him have to change up his game. It’s not that he wasn’t a good three-point shooter in years’ past. It was that he didn’t rely on his floor spacing to make him a premier scorer.

In his noble attempt to adapt to both teams, Carmelo put up career-highs in three-point attempts a game, but taking away his mid-range game may have confused him on what shots his team wanted him to take, hindering his production on the floor.

The Blazers, by contrast, are letting Carmelo take a lot more two-pointers as he did during his heyday. He’s not hitting them at a good rate — shooting 42 percent in that department — but taking 72 percent of his shots from below three-point land is a return to form for him. By going back to his old game, ‘Melo no longer has to try to be something he’s not. Because his shot selection has more variety, he actually has become a better three-point marksman, shooting near 43 percent from distance on 4.2 attempts per game.

That also has to do with his baskets being assisted, as 91 percent of his three-pointers are on assists. This means that even though he’s playing more like his old self, Portland is finding him in his spots. Almost 45 percent of Carmelo’s two-point shots are assisted too, which is the highest percentage he’s had since his days with the Denver Nuggets

To be fair, his shots with the Thunder and the Rockets were also heavily assisted, but now that he’s in a role in which he doesn’t have to overthink where he shoots, he’s thriving again — to a certain extent.

Yet, it’s not the offensive end where Portland has benefited the most from Carmelo. In what has to be a twist no one saw coming, it’s defensively where Portland has gotten better with him on board.

Portland allows 5.5 fewer points per 100 possessions when Carmelo is on the court, which is the best among the team’s active players who have played more than 100 minutes. Going by defensive rating, the last time Carmelo Anthony helped his teams tremendously on the defensive side was in his last half-season in Denver, where the Nuggets allowed 3.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor.

Portland doesn’t boast exactly an elite defense right now — it has the 21st-rated defense — so Carmelo’s sudden defensive impact is a welcome sight for them.

Even while he’s gone back to his old roots offensively, this development defensively may show a metamorphosis in Carmelo Anthony’s game. From his days as a New York Knick to his brief time as a Rocket, the best ‘Melo ever did on the defensive end was being neutral on the floor, and that was rare.

So, has this been a success? While Carmelo has helped the Blazers out a bit, they haven’t gotten that much better. When he first came to Portland, the Blazers were 5-9. Since then, they’ve gone 6-7, which doesn’t exactly make his addition look like a franchise-saving move. It does, however, make it look like adding someone like him wouldn’t prove to be a negative like the doubters once thought.

The real question is, will this continue throughout the season? The “small sample size” excuse isn’t the reason why this is being brought up. It’s that Portland is going to go through a lot of changes in the next coming months. Zach Collins will be coming back in a matter of weeks. Jusuf Nurkic aims to be back before seasons end. Those guys could influence what kind of minutes Carmelo is going to see.

It possibly could have been less had it not been for Rodney Hood’s injury which will put him out indefinitely. With him out, there will be more scoring required for Portland to keep its offense humming. They also have team-friendly contracts to use to get bigger fish. Carmelo’s place on the team will depend on if they use them in trade and who they trade for.

No matter what happens, Carmelo Anthony is back everyone, and he’s not going out on a whimper.

That in and of itself is a victory.

Matt John is a staff writer for Basketball Insiders. He is currently a Utah resident, but a Massachusetts native.

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2021 Olympics Basketball Betting Picks

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On Wednesday, the Olympics’ schedule for men’s basketball begins with the United States taking on Iran at 12:40 a.m. (EST). This is one of the listed games for Group A. For the preview, prediction, and betting picks for the USA vs. Iran matchup, this other article is available for bettors. Then, for Group B, Italy will play against Australia at 4:20 a.m. (EST). For the second Group A matchup on Wednesday, the Czech Republic will face France at 8:00 a.m. (EST). These games can be watched live via Peacock, NBC’s exclusive streaming service. Viewers can also watch the televised games with NBA League Pass.

Bovada and MyBookie are two excellent betting sites for gambling on men’s basketball during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The best NBA betting apps are from MyBookie, BetUS, Bovada, Intertops, and BetOnline. When bettors use MyBookie, the app offers a $500 deposit bonus for new users. For the Italy vs. Australia and France vs. Czech Republic games, if an individual wants to bet on the best moneyline, DraftKings is the superior choice. For a side note, these games are being played at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Italy vs. Australia – Group B

Spread: Italy +7 (+112), Australia -7 (-108)

Total: 171.5

Over/Under: -108, -112

Best Moneyline: Italy +240, Australia -330

Accessibility: NBC Sports App

Italy Starting Lineup: 

PG: Nico Mannion 

SG: Stefano Tonut

SF: Simone Fontecchio

PF: Michele Vitali

C: Nicolo Melli 

Australia Starting Lineup:

PG: Patty Mills

SG: Matthew Dellavedova 

SF: Joe Ingles

PF: Aron Baynes

C: Jock Landale 

Italy defeated Germany 92-82 on Sunday, July 25. Forward Simone Fontecchio led the team in statistics, finishing his performance with 20 points, four rebounds, three steals, and one block. Stefano Tonut had 18 points, three rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Italy’s bench players combined for 28 points in their 10-point win over Germany. Hawks’ forward Danilo Gallinari scored 18 points from the bench, too. One big advantage the Italians had over the Germans was their three-point shooting accuracy. They shot 15-for-31 (48.4 percent) from beyond the arc. Plus, Italy had a total of 11 steals overall, and this was on top of an 11-0 run to help seal their first victory.

Moreover, Australia defeated Nigeria 84-67 on Sunday, July 25. The top story after this win was Australia’s bench players outscoring their starters. The Aussies’ starters scored 26 points versus Nigeria, while the reserve players had 58 points! A win is a win, but some players needed to elevate their intensity, such as Jazz’s Joe Ingles. In 33 minutes, he scored only 11 points  In 35 minutes played, guard Patty Mills ended his performance with 25 points, four rebounds, six assists, and four steals. Forward Nick Kay had 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and one block. While the Aussies did out-rebound the Nigerians 44 to 38, they also had a much higher free throw shooting percentage, shooting 17-for-19 (89.5 percent) from the free throw line.

Prediction – Australia wins by four points

Australia is the favored team over Italy. They held Nigeria to 67 points. Aside from Gallinari’s decent performance from the bench against Germany, some bettors are not expecting the Italians to be able to keep up with the Aussies this time around. According to Bovada, Australia has -350 odds of defeating Italy, whereas the Italians have +275 odds of pulling off the upset. In all fairness, picking Australia is the best bet. Not to mention, it is the safest bet concerning the uncertainties each of the players are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

France vs. Czech Republic – Group A

Spread: France -9.5 (-105), Czech Republic +9.5 (-115)

Total: 165

Over/Under: -110

Best Moneyline: France -450, Czech Republic +355

Accessibility: NBC Sports App

France Starting Lineup:

PG: Nando De Colo

SG: Evan Fournier

SF: Nicolas Batum

PF: Guerschon Yabusele

C: Rudy Gobert

Czech Republic Starting Lineup:

PG: Tomas Satoransky

SG: Blake Schilb

SF: Jaromir Bohacik

PF: Ondrej Balvin

C: Jan Vesely

France defeated Team USA 83-76 this past Sunday. In 34 minutes played, shooting guard Evan Fournier ended his performance with 28 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert finished his game with 14 points, nine rebounds, and one assist. The bench players combined for 17 points against USA. Moustapha Fall scored seven points and acquired four rebounds. On top of Brooklyn Nets’ small forward Kevin Durant fouling out, Team USA missing too many baskets led to a satisfying victory for France. The French shot 29-for-62 (46.8 percent) from the field, whereas the Americans shot 25-for-69 (36.2 percent) from the field. France also out-rebounded USA 42 to 36. Furthermore, Fournier and Gobert are once again starting for France versus Czech Republic.

In the Czech Republic’s 84-78 victory over Iran, bench player Patrik Auda led the team in scoring, with a total of 16 points in 23 minutes played. He also had six rebounds against Iran. Blake Schilb had 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, and one block in 24 minutes played. Schilb is projected to be in the starting lineup against France. While the Iranians shot 31-62 (50 percent) from the field, the Czechs had a field goal shooting percentage of 44.6 percent. This was based on shooting 33-for-74. If the Czech players prefer quantity over quality, they will most likely struggle versus France’s starting lineup. Additionally, it helped for the team to out-rebound Iran 43 to 33. We’ll see if the Czech Republic can maintain their rebounding abilities against fresh NBA-tested competitors.

Prediction – France wins by six points

Sports bettors might be tempted to pick an upset on Wednesday, but then again, we have little data to base our predictions on this early during the Tokyo Olympics. France was good enough to defeat Team USA, so picking them to win over the Czech Republic makes perfect sense. And, when we look at the number of different French players who have NBA experience, the best possible pick becomes as clear as daylight. Expect the Czechs to hang with the French throughout the majority of the four quarters. However, France will pull away in the closing minutes to earn their second victory in the Tokyo Games.

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Team USA vs. Iran – Preview, Prediction, & Betting Picks

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Team USA is coming off their first Olympics’ loss in men’s basketball since 2004. In the post-game press conference after USA lost 83-76 against France, head coach Greg Popovich said, “When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed. I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30. That’s a hell of a team.” Leading up to this matchup, another contributing factor for the team’s loss was Wizards‘ guard Bradley Beal bowing out of the Olympics after being placed in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols during training camp. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Beal averaged 31.3 points per game. Regarding the injury report, as of July 27th, there are no reported injuries for these two teams.

Moreover, the USA’s second men’s basketball game of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is schedule for Wednesday, July 28th at 12:40 a.m. (EST). Unfortunately, the next two USA men’s basketball games are not guaranteed to air live on television in the United States. However, the games can be watched on NBC channels (delayed) and NBC’s exclusive streaming service known as Peacock. Plus, the NBC Sports mobile app will stream the games live. Free trials are also available for Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, fuboTV, Sling TV, or AT&T TV Now. The game can also be watched via NBA League Pass. For betting on medal and group winners for men’s basketball, Bovada offers the best service.

Game Details

Date & Time: Wednesday, July 28th at 12:40 a.m. (EST)

Location: Saitama Super Arena; Saitama, Japan

Availability: Peacock (live) & NBC (delayed)

Spread: USA -41.5 (-110) (per DraftKings Sportsbook)

Over/Under: 166.5

Best Moneyline: USA -8000, Iran +2500 (per DraftKings Sportsbook)

Team USA Starting Lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard 

SG: Zach LaVine 

SF: Kevin Durant

PF: Draymond Green

C: Bam Adebayo 

Team Iran Starting Lineup:

PG: Mohammad Jamshidi

SG: Behnam Yakhchali

SF: Arsalan Kazemi

PF: Samad Nikkhah Bahrami

C: Hamed Haddadi

Bovada and MyBookie are two available betting sites for gambling on men’s basketball during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The best NBA betting apps are from MyBookie, BetUS, Bovada, Intertops, and BetOnline. With MyBookie, the app offers a $500 deposit bonus for new users. For the USA vs. Iran matchup, if an individual wants to bet on the best moneyline, DraftKings is another option as well.

USA vs. Iran Preview

Referencing Bovada’s Olympics odds, Team USA is the favorite to win gold in men’s basketball, with odds showing -250. Slovenia and Australia are tied for second, possessing +800 odds. With odds showing +75000, Iran ranks 12th for odds to win the gold medal. They could still win their fourth consecutive gold medal in basketball, but this team appears to be different from previous USA men’s basketball teams. Their performance against the French was pitiful. Anyways, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook, this past Sunday, USA opened as 12.5-point favorites versus Iran. However, yesterday the oddsmakers changed their projection to 29.5-point favorites. As of Tuesday, July 27, DraftKings Sportsbook has USA listed as 41.5-point favorites over Iran.

Team USA’s starting lineup in the Olympics consisted of Zach LaVine, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Bam Adebayo. In the team’s 83-76 loss against France, with a total of 18 points, Milwaukee Bucks‘ guard Jrue Holiday led the team in scoring. However, Holiday’s performance was not sufficient enough to carry the team. His teammates around him failed to contribute at a higher level. In 25 minutes played, Bam Adebayo closed out his performance with 12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. Damian Lillard also scored 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists. For the winning team, the leading scorer for France was Evan Fournier, finishing his game with 28 points and four rebounds. The French ended their first win on a 16-2 run late in the fourth quarter.

While the turnovers and field goal percentages were identical between these two teams, the difference-makers were personal fouls. For free throw shooting percentage, France shot 17-for-24 (70.8 percent) from the free throw line, whereas USA shot 16-for-21 (76.2 percent). Additionally, France committed 21 fouls in the match, which was all right considering USA had a total of 25 personal fouls called against them. Despite small forward Kevin Durant scoring 10 points, he also fouled out of the game. This was another poor game plan by Coach Popovich. This was especially evident in the team’s consecutive losses against Australia and Nigeria during those exhibition games. Practice games or not, USA looked less than mediocre, never mind lethargic and disinterested.

Then again, Iran is also trying to recover from an 84-78 loss versus Czech Republic. Guard Behnam Yakhchali led the team on the stat sheet, ending his performance with 23 points, three rebounds, and four assists in 36 minutes played. In 29 minutes on the court, Mohammad Jamshidi had 16 points, one rebound, and seven assists. For the Czech Republic, with 16 points, Patrik Auda led his team in points. While the Czechs out-rebounded the Iranians 43 to 33, they also had fewer turnovers. The winning team had 15 turnovers, while Iran had 21 overall.

The team came close to erasing a 21-point deficit. Iran’s past starting lineup was Benam Yakhchali, Mohammad Jamshidi, Samad Bahrami, Arsalan Kazemi, and Hamed Haddadi. Though, this is subject to change. The projected starting lineup is listed in the game details section shown above. Yakhchali will once again be returning as a guard, and of course, he led the team in scoring against the Czech Republic. 

Prediction: USA wins by 15+ points

Team USA is nearly a 42-point favorite against Iran. Based on their previous 89-79 defeat versus France, it is certainly hard to believe this team will beat a team by 40 points. Many bettors were not expecting for Durant to foul out, either. After their seven-point loss, Bovada adjusted the odds of USA winning their group. Now, France has the favored -550 odds of winning Group A, whereas USA has +400 odds. Though, between USA and Iran right now, the Americans are obviously the best of the worst. All things considered, USA will likely have their first bounce-back victory, but the question right now is, how many points will they win by?

Some bettors are speculating a 12-point margin of victory, however, others are suggesting 23 points. A prediction of at least 15 points sounds reasonable. Why? It’s because Iran’s men’s basketball team has lost multiple games already. In the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Round (2019) for Group F, Japan defeated Iran 70-56. Then, Spain defeated Iran 73-65 later in the year. Iran losing 84-78 versus the Czech Republic just adds to this notable trend. Nevertheless, while some could say that Iran is due for their first win, so is the USA. The Americans have not lost multiple games since 2004. In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the USA lost 92-73 versus Puerto Rico, 94-90 against Lithuania, and 89-81 versus Argentina. Time will tell if the Americans can turn over a new leaf.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Bradley Beal never requested a trade, remains committed to Wizards

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This NBA offseason has been a frustrating one for some die-hard fans, especially Washington Wizards‘ fans. On June 18, 2021, news broke concerning shooting guard Bradley Beal announcing his commitment to play for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. A few weeks ago, it was reported by USA Basketball that Beal would not play in the Tokyo Olympics. And, this was because the 28-year-old three-time NBA All-Star had to enter the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Missouri native.

In an interview published by CBS Sports on July 15, 2021, regarding the chance to play for USA Basketball, Beal told CBS’ Michael Kaskey-Blomain, “It’s an honor. It’s something that you take for granted. Not a lot of guys in the league get this opportunity. We all know that. We didn’t live up to what we wanted to a few years ago (in the 2019 FIBA World Cup), and so now we have an opportunity to get back what’s rightfully ours.”

In 2010, Beal won the FIBA-Under 17 World Cup MVP. Though, everyone can see his passion for basketball. Needless to say, it is an awful experience for any athlete to have to bow out of the Olympics. In addition to this unfortunate news, there is all kinds of speculation across the Internet concerning Beal’s future with the Wizards. From Boston.com, it was reported two days ago that Beal would welcome a trade if he was moved to the Boston Celtics. The report also included three other teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers. This latest news information was originally reported by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. Last Saturday, Fischer stated, “Boston’s path to securing Beal would appear far more costly, as the Celtics’ offer almost certainly has to include Jaylen Brown and all of their future draft picks they are able to part with.”

Although the report could still be accurate, many fans are asking for more evidence to help support this claim. This is Beal’s team; he was drafted by Washington third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Would the Wizards be wiling to trade their star player for Jaylen Brown and potential future draft picks? This remains to be seen. Plus, everyone should keep in mind that although Beal was open to a trade, at least he never demanded an immediate trade. The latest news is likely just trade rumors and meaningless gossip.

Moreover, the 2020-21 Wizards finished 34-38 (.472), ranking third in the Southeast Division and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference. The team lost four games to one in the first round of the postseason against the 76ers. The Wizards have not appeared in the NBA Finals since the 1978-79 season, and they have not won the championship since the 1977-78 season, when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics in Game 7 105-99. Not to mention, the Wizards were called the Bullets back then.

After the season ended, the organization agreed to part ways with head coach Scott Brooks. Perhaps Coach Brooks leaving the team is leading Beal to ask more questions about his own future. According to one report by NBC’s Pro Basketball Talk, Beal was irked over the organization hiring Wes Unseld Jr. over Sam Cassell for the vacant head coach position. How much does this play into trade talks?

Well, we all know that Beal is a competitive player, so three consecutive losing seasons by Washington might not be cutting it for him. Then again, a great player should be willing to give a new coach a chance. Last season, in 60 games played, the six-foot-three guard averaged 31.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. The 9-year NBA veteran also shot 48.5 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the 2021 All-Star Game, in 31 minutes played, Beal scored 26 points.

On October 17, 2019, Beal signed a two-year, $72 million extension with Washington. He earned $28.7 million this past season, and he will earn $34.5 million in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Beal’s player option for the 2022-23 season is also $37.2 million. So, folks should keep in mind that Beal is still showing his loyalty to the Wizards. He is only considering a trade request before the draft. The key word here is “considering.” Having said this, not even LeBron James is safe from a trade in this league. Ok, maybe only James is safe.

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