When the Rockets signed Carmelo Anthony this summer, it was expected that he would help contribute to what could be one of the best and deepest benches in the NBA. After all, they still had former sixth man of the year in Eric Gordon and a pair of new young additions in Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight. They even added rookie Gary Clark and Nene remains a stalwart backup at center.
But Anthony is gone and many of the key contributors have been injured. Additionally, James Ennis, Chris Paul, James Harden and Eric Gordon have missed games due to injury and illness so far this season.
The result: the past three games have been losses after a five-game winning streak. Harden has been forced to carry the offensive load, but he hasn't been enough even with 54 points in Washington on Monday night. Even when Paul returns and with Gordon shaking off his slump, a bench of Gordon, Clark and Isaiah Hartenstein isn't going to inspire much fear in opponents.
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The Rockets have one of the worst bench squads in the NBA already and with injuries creating a mish-mash lineup, it won't get any better without help.
GM Daryl Morey is, no doubt, looking for options, which is why Anthony remains on the roster. He won't be eligible to be traded until December 15 and while he won't bring in a big name on his own, his salary could be added to a deal.
It's tough to suggest this early in the season that the Rockets need more than health and time together, but unless Knight comes back healthy very quickly and becomes one of the better back up point guards in the NBA (unlikely), chances of improving with the current roster appear slim.
Fortunately, no one is running away with the Western Conference at the moment, but the Rockets can't afford to struggle for too long if they intend to be in contention for home court. At the moment, they'd be happy to be competing for a playoff spot, but until they can find a way to shore up a dreadful bench, that isn't likely to happen.