On Monday, New York Times sports writer Marc Stein reported that Carmelo Anthony intends to sign with the Houston Rockets for the veteran minimum after his trade to and subsequent release from the Atlanta Hawks occurs. That process could take up to a week to complete while the various teams involved put the finishing touches on the deal.
This has long been expected by most NBA insiders and shouldn't come as much of a surprise to avid Rockets fans. But, the more important question is will Anthony fit with the Rockets?
No one denies Carmelo Anthony is one of the more dynamic offensive players over the last two decades in the NBA. Even in a system with Oklahoma City that did not favor his style of play and featured other dominant scorers, he managed 16 points per game. In Houston, he should help to provide insurance on the offensive end of the floor for both James Harden and Chris Paul. While he isn't a high percentage three-point shooter, he can stretch the floor and should have plenty of wide open looks from distance. And he will instantly become their best post option. He will be a significant upgrade offensively over both Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute.
One of the concerns with Anthony is something we heard a lot last year before the Paul trade. Are there enough basketballs to go around? Of course, by the end of the season, no one thought putting Paul and Harden together was a bad idea. The same should be the case for Anthony, who could excel in the Rockets offense, which runs more isolation plays than any team in basketball, Anthony's strength. Additionally, he has been and should continue to be a very good and willing passer, adding yet another savvy veteran to their mix.
The biggest talking point about Anthony is his lack of defense. The Rockets scratched and clawed their way to the sixth best defense in the NBA last season (second best in the playoffs), and both Ariza and Mbah a Moute were part of that success. Anthony has never been a great defender and he looked lost at times with OKC. Fortunately, he'll be joining a team that went almost exclusively to a switching style of defense at the halfway point last season, a kind of play that should minimize any deficiencies Anthony may have on that end of the floor. No one is going to confuse him for an All Defensive team member, but no one thinks that of Klay Thompson or Steph Curry either, yet the Warriors are always near the top of the league defensively thanks to a similar switching style of defense.
Issues with Coach D'Antoni
Another discussion topic among sports talking heads is the fact that Anthony and Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni did not mesh well at all in New York when both were with the Knicks. No one should ignore those problems, but the overemphasis is based more on where they were (New York: the alleged center of the universe) and the situation at the time, which was ugly. The fact is that D'Antoni's style of motion offense is gone. He has fully bought into isolation and pick-and-roll offense, the very style Anthony plays. In New York, D'Antoni was trying to cram a square peg into a round hole and Anthony was being obstinate about not doing it. Both are older and have changed significantly since then, which hopefully makes them smart enough to see how this move makes them both better.
Choosing His Path
One thing that some of us were adamant about last year was that Paul and Harden would work because they chose to play together. It wasn't a forced union or marriage of convenience. This was a conscious decision. The same goes for Anthony, who will join his close friend, Paul, in Houston, something both tried to make happen last season prior to the trade to OKC. When guys want to be on the same team, it radically changes the dynamic of how they play together. Nevermind the fact that none of these guys are in their early 20s. They know the game and they understand the ramifications of their choices. Making the decision to be in Houston says a lot about where Anthony wants to be now and what he wants the last portion of his career to look like.