The possibility of Carmelo Anthony getting traded to the Houston Rockets is real, but it’s not a deal they should execute.
Houston, like every team in the Western Conference, wants to be better than the Golden State Warriors. They already have James Harden locked up for the foreseeable future. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson, among others, are great role players for the system Mike D’Antoni has implemented. The Rockets even went out and traded for Chris Paul, making their already devastating offense even more lethal while improving a bit on the defensive end. Now, it appears they want to add Carmelo Anthony.
Reportedly, both parties “feel good” about a deal getting completed. Anthony would waive his no-trade clause to go to the Rockets, but the price tag would be hefty and likely involve a third team. I don’t believe Houston should do this; parting with significant role players while you’re contending for a championship isn’t smart especially when you already added a marquee player. Furthermore, this isn’t the Melo of old.
Now 33-years-old, Anthony is far from the player he was during his 20s. After leading the NBA in scoring with 28.7 points a game in 2013, Melo’s average dropped each year before slightly rising again in 2017: 27.4, 24.2, 21.8 and 22.4. Those four campaigns average out to 24 a night, good for eighth in the league over that span. He puts up points, but the efficiency isn’t on par with some of the other elite scorers. This is nothing new.
Overall, 20 players are averaging at least 20 points a night from 2014-2017. Anthony is 16th in true shooting percentage (54.2), ahead of DeMar DeRozan, Andrew Wiggins, LaMarcus Aldridge and John Wall.
Before we go further, I want to get this out of the way — Carmelo Anthony is a good player. Specifically, he’s a great scorer. There isn’t much else to his game. He’ll excel if he’s placed in the right positions, and he would undoubtedly make the Rockets’ offense deadlier. However, Houston is already going to have growing pains assimilating Paul and Harden. Throwing Anthony in there would only cause more friction, and the last thing any team is the West can sacrifice is time spent building chemistry.
Anthony is at his best in isolation. Among players with at least two of isos a night, Melo is 10th overall with 0.99 points per possession, placing him in the 78th percentile. Harden’s in the 76th and Paul’s third in the 94th. On paper, this would work like a charm because each guy is lethal from that set, but also keep in mind that each guy is ball dominant and is isolated because the team needs him to create shots.
If Melo isn’t able to get the ball where he wants it, he will help as a catch-and-shoot guy. Roughly one-fifth (20.2 percent) of Houston’s plays were spot-ups, according to Synergy. They were above-average and landed in the 69th percentile. Melo was in the 94th (93.8, but what’s the harm in rounding up?). It would be a killer for defenses to have to leave Anthony open in the corner to bottle up Harden in the lane, but I don’t know if that would be the case.
For this deal to happen, the Rockets would likely move Ariza, Gordon or Anderson. Maybe they’re forced to part ways with two. We don’t know. If that’s the case, Houston’s offense would take a step back. Anthony is a solid three-point shooter, there’s no doubting that. At 35.9 percent, he’s accurate enough to get the job done. Unfortunately, the trio mentioned at the start of the paragraph are more voluminous, and both Anderson and Gordon shoot better than Melo does at 40.3 and 37.2 percent, respectively. Ariza is last, 34.4 percent, but he brings a different dynamic and is the guy tasked with guarding the NBA’s elite wings.
Could you imagine what would happen if Ariza was a part of the package? I don’t think it would happen, but the NBA is a wild place. Daryl Morey is a smart guy, and that’s the only thing making me believe they’d keep Ariza. Not only did he make 191 threes this year (14th in the league), but his subpar clip from downtown jumped to 37.7 percent in the postseason.
Houston could deal with the slightly lessened three-point attack, but the defense would be a serious contender for the worst of all-time. Ariza is a lifesaver on that end. And that’s why the Rockets need him.
He gives them someone to matchup with Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. Now, after the West has gotten much stronger, Ariza’s newest tasks will include Jimmy Butler and Paul George. That’s absurd. Anthony wouldn’t be able to do that effectively because his lack of defense has been the one thing we’ve attacked for the length of his career. That’s not going to change, and he’s only getting older.
Carmelo Anthony is a nice name to add to the roster. How much he would help remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Knicks and Rockets (and someone else) work out a deal, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise to me if neither side could agree on a package. If Trevor Ariza’s a part of it, Houston needs to hang up the phone as quickly as possible. Ariza isn’t a big name, but he fits the three-and-D role perfectly — much better than Anthony would.
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This past year, Durant averaged 35.5 points against the Rockets while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor. Ariza was his primary defender. He gave Houston the best chance of slowing him down, and it didn’t work. Those would inflate against Anthony, and we all know that KD is going to maintain this level of play for at least a few more seasons.
The thesis is simple — Houston needs to be very careful. If they actually want to beat Golden State, Anthony isn’t the way to go. Or maybe he is. Frankly, it depends on what they’re giving up for him. After all, it is the Knicks we’re talking about. If the Rockets come with a lowball offer and New York agrees, well then it’s hard to go back on your word.
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