Considering that the Carmelo Anthony experiment failed spectacularly for the Thunder through the 2017-2018 season, its fair to wonder why the Rockets are still angling to get him. True, they tried hard to trade for him last year, believing he would be an integral part of their push to challenge the Warriors at the top of the National Basketball Association. On the other hand, they couldn’t have but seen how his reluctance to accept — and how his actual performance in — a reduced role wound up stunting instead of helping the cause of the blue and yellow.
The Rockets are, to be sure, among the league’s best, if not the league’s best, at crunching advanced stats, so it wouldn’t be a stretch for fans to trust their judgment when it comes to Anthony’s fit. Between general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni, a plan to best make use of his talents must have been formulated. And, given his history with the Knicks (partly under the two-time Coach of the Year) and the Thunder, that plan must have been good enough for them to sign off on him.
True, Anthony will not come at a heavy price. Based on reports, he will be joining the Rockets for the veteran’s minimum, an option he can well afford after being bought out of his $27.9-million contract by the Hawks. Then again, it’s a gamble that figures to pay dividends only through his willingness to play ball under their terms. Otherwise, they will have done subtraction by addition; having lost defense-oriented wings Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute to free agency, they will be hard-pressed to accommodate him in the starting lineup knowing full well his deficiencies in coverage.
Make no mistake. Anthony is still very good. He may have lost a step or two at 34, but he remains a crafty scorer the Rockets can lean on for points in a pinch. Nonetheless, his ball-dominant ways seem to clash with those of resident top dogs James Harden and Chris Paul. Meanwhile, his work as a spot-up option is spotty at best. Which is to say his arrival could reap dividends, but only if he cooperates. Else, he will have been a desperate pickup that netted the red and white nothing but false hope.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.