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Why The Potential Carmelo Anthony And Houston Rockets Marriage Should Never Happen

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The Houston Rockets and Carmelo Anthony have obvious mutual admiration for one another. However, both parties would be wise to just stay away.

The Houston Rockets’ love affair with Carmelo Anthony first came out of the woodwork in 2014 when Melo last entered free agency. Houston was looking to pair Anthony alongside the then budding superstar James Harden and All-Star center Dwight Howard to form their own rendition of the “Big Three”. 

Daryl Morey and the Rockets front office envisioned having an offense that simply no team could be able to defend. Anthony instead decided to remain with the Knicks and re-upped on a five-year, $124 million with a full no-trade clause, still believing he could be the savior that the franchise so desperately desired. At that time then-Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson had yet to publicly criticize and ridicule Anthony in front of the entire basketball world.

Most could not have envisioned these past three seasons going any worse for Anthony and the Knicks than they actually have. Aside from drafting and developing power forward Kristaps Porzingis, the team has been a massive disappointment, and quite honestly, the joke of the NBA. From Joakim Noah’s ridiculous contract to Derrick Rose going AWOL, Anthony has been the least of the Knicks issues. Even amid Phil Jackson’s recent dismissal (Knicks fans rejoice), it has become relatively clear that he did enough to push Melo out the door too and thus we have trade discussions.

Trading Anthony is an incredibly complicated feat for many reasons, the main one being that his no-trade clause allows him to have the final say if he wants to leave and where he wants to go. While he is entering the last season of his contract (2018-19 Player Option), he is due to make $26.2 million next season in addition to a 15% trade kicker ($8.1 million) if he is moved.

The kicker was put in place as a buffer for Anthony had a trade scenario come about. So, instead of the team trading for Anthony and paying him $26.2 million, the team will need to pay a whopping $34.3 million. If Anthony were to opt into his player option, the kicker can be split into two seasons, but his contract would still be $30+ million. Many teams, whether they would want to be suitors for Anthony or not, do not have the necessary cap space to pay a player that much money. 

Similarly to the summer of 2014, the Rockets envision a scenario where they can create a dynamic big three if they are able to bring Carmelo into the fold, this time surrounding him with superstar James Harden and All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who the team traded for in June. Like every other team in the NBA, the Rockets are looking to create the next super-team to compete with the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. 

Reports out of Anthony’s camp have him agreeing and believing in this sentiment, and thus it seems Houston is one of the only likely destinations if New York were to trade him. It also does not hurt the Rockets chances of landing Anthony considering both he and Chris Paul are members of the infamous Banana Boat Squad, and very good friends. Anthony has also become close with Harden through All-Star and Olympic appearances. But just because star players are friends that doesn’t mean they can automatically turn into something great…

Houston believes that by adding Anthony to the fold they can become an offensive juggernaut that no team can defend. Not for anything, but the team ranked second in the NBA in points per game last season without Anthony, or Chris Paul for that matter. Boasting a starting lineup of since-traded Patrick Beverly, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela, the team scored an average of 115.3 points per game with an offensive rating of 114.7, both good for second in the NBA. Granted, James Harden did have a magical season averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game, but it begs the question if the Rockets really need to make improving their offense their number one priority.

Harden, Paul, and Anthony all rely on having the ball in their hands to be successful on the court. 

Usage RateNBA Rank
James Harden34.2%4th
Carmelo Anthony28.9%19th
Chris Paul24.5%26th

Only two teams in the NBA had two players in the top 20 in usage rating last season: New Orleans (Cousins and Davis) and Cleveland (Irving and James). The Pelicans big-man tandem is still a work in progress after the two could only help the Pelicans to a 7-10 record together. While the Cavs made another Finals appearance, rumors swirling that Kyrie wants out from under LeBron James’ shadow has created a high level of dysfunction in The Land. Even still, adding Anthony and Paul into the fold will certainly lower Harden’s overall production, and it’s easy to wonder how this might affect him mentally.

Many are also forgetting that the man at the helm for the Rockets is none other than Mike D’Antoni. Yes, the same Mike D’Antoni that Carmelo Anthony ran out of New York after joining the team in 2011. Anthony was not a fan D’Antoni’s “space and pace” style of play; he prefers an offense that runs less and plays more of a motion style. Well… newsflash: the same offense Anthony refused to adapt to with D’Anthoni in New York is the same offense that he currently runs in Houston. 

You also have to wonder if there is still bad blood that exists between D’Antoni and Anthony. After all, the coach did quit explicitly because of Anthony. On two separate occasions, D’Antoni has publicly come out and said whether it was because Anthony refused to accommodate Jeremy Lin or just did his best to sabotage him as the coach. Some players and coaches just aren’t meant to be married, and this couple absolutely seems like one of them.

By pursuing Anthony, the Rockets are simply allowing defense to take a backseat. Especially in D’Antoni’s system where the idea of defense is naturally neglected, Houston is trying to make us all believe that they can win games by focusing solely on the offensive side of the ball. Last season, the Rockets ranked 26th in the NBA in opposing points per game allowing 109.6. Opposing teams shot nearly 52% from the floor against them, and considering the Rockets pace of play, that is certainly eyebrow-raising. 

While the team brought in defensive stud P.J. Tucker in free agency, they have done little to fill the defensive void left by Patrick Beverley, who was a member of the All-NBA Defensive First Team last season. Melo has never been a plus defender in his career, and as he gets older in age his work on that end continues to lessen and deteriorate. Last season he had a defensive rating of 113 which ranked 429th in the NBA. Yes, 429 players had a greater impact on defense than Anthony did. Not good…

The Rockets can already keep pace on offense with the Golden State Warriors; they do not need Carmelo Anthony to do that. Where Houston can’t keep up is on the defensive side. The Warriors ranked second in the NBA with a 104.0 defensive rating last season, and 11th with 104.3 opposing points per game. They have proven that they can be nearly as good on defense as they can be on offense. For Houston to push to the next level, Anthony is not the answer in that department. They should push for more defensive-oriented players. 

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Credit: MSG Network

Houston, as crazy as it sounds, might not be the best option for Carmelo Anthony either. As close as he is with Chris Paul and James Harden, there are other attractive destinations where he should consider waiving his no-trade clause for, especially if he is willing to take a backseat for the first time in his career (which is still up in the air). First, there is the Oklahoma City Thunder. With their recent acquisition of Paul George, that tandem with Russell Westbrook has the ability to be one of the deadliest in the NBA

The team also has a clear defensive path superior to that of the Rockets. Last season, OKC ranked 10th in the NBA in defensive rating and exceeded expectations as a whole sans Kevin Durant. Led by Andre Roberson and Steven Adams, they are more equipped to bring Anthony into the fold. Especially if Anthony is willing to at least entertain the idea of coming off the bench (an idea that has not been presented in Houston), the Thunder could certainly make a run to the Western Conference Finals. 

The Miami Heat also make sense as an attractive destination for Anthony’s services. After missing out on Gordon Hayward, the team gave $50+ million to Kelly Olynik and Dion Waiters. If the team can figure out how to move these contracts (Olynik cannot be moved before December 15th), slotting in Anthony into Miami’s positive culture next to Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic could create another interesting team in the Eastern Conference. 

Lastly, call me crazy but for his purposes it might not be the worst idea to remain in New York with the Knicks. Anthony has not had the best year off the court either, and is going through a highly publicized separation with his wife, television personality LaLa Anthony. As almost every other father in the world would want, Melo hopes to remain close to his 10-year-old son, Kiyan, and leaving New York would mean spending less time with his son. This point truly should not be understated.

Additionally, Anthony is familiar and comfortable with Madison Square Garden and New York. Even as the seasons have gotten more difficult with losing, for the most part he is still one of the more beloved players on the team by fans and teammates. If Anthony would rather spend his last few seasons remaining “the man” in New York, understanding that the team is rebuilding around Kristaps Porzingis, and he is willing to help with the process, then it is hard to fault him for refusing to waive his no-trade clause and staying put. Melo has three Olympic gold medals (more than any other player), and an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship at Syracuse. He is going to be a Hall of Famer and go down as one of the greatest scorers of all time. Maybe, in his mind, chasing a ring is not the way he wants to go out. 

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Credit: ESPN SportsCenter

As a Knicks fan, I wouldn’t mind seeing Anthony stay and seeing what he can do in Hornacek’s style (without Phil Jackson breathing down his neck). He has received constant praise from teammates, specifically Kristaps Porzingis. It is tough to believe that Porzingis is ready to take on the load of being the number one option on the Knicks. Additionally, with Tim Hardaway Jr., there is more for him to learn and Melo can serve as an excellent mentor on the offensive end. What is promising is that Scott Perry and the new Knicks regime do not seem content giving Anthony away for nickels on the dollar. If they were to trade Anthony, I would hope they receive ample compensation in return. 

The Rockets-Melo pending marriage is set up to fail. From “too many mouths to feed” on offense to the D’Antoni connection to the simple fact that the team should be more focused on improving defensively, a potential trade should be scrapped. Time will tell as the never-ending Melo Drama will continue to unfold. Whatever happens, it will certainly be very interesting.

Edited by Jeremy Losak, Brian Kang.

How many coaches has Carmelo Anthony had over the course of his career?
Created 8/1/17
  1. 8
  2. 3
  3. 5
  4. 6

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