I can understand where the Houston Rockets are coming from for inquiring about Carmelo Anthony. In terms of star power, the Rockets will have one heck of a lineup that should be able to contend with the Golden State Warriors. However, talent alone will not be enough for the Rockets. With the addition of Chris Paul to pair with James Harden, the Rockets will have the best backcourt in the NBA. And for that reason alone– they must avoid Carmelo Anthony.
It sounds strange to say a team should avoid adding a Superstar player to a roster that’s right on the cusp. However, by adding Anthony, his presence will take away what makes Paul, Harden and the rest of the Rockets so dangerous.
Paul is still an elite PG. His 2016 averages of 18 points and 9 assists will leave most players envious, now he has Harden to pass to. Who was the last true PG Harden played with? You can count Russell Westbrook but the two were so young and green they didn’t have legit time to become a real tandem. Now you look at Anthony. Who was the last player he teamed with whose been to the Olympics or even an All-Star Game?
Paul and Harden will have their own adjustments issues in the beginning as both players are used to have the ball in their hands. Harden, being free from PG duties he shared with Patrick Beverley will be let loose and the league should be worried. Beverley was no slouch but Paul is a different breed of facilitator. His knack for getting to the rim or finding open teammates will make Harden more of a complete player. The same will go for Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and any other player in a Rockets uniform.
But can the same be said for Anthony?
Anthony has earned the reputation as an offensive scheme killer with his knack for playing entirely too much iso. But in Anthony’s defense- he’s never played with a PG like Paul or an offensive force like Harden. Will he be willing to play third fiddle? At his age and where he’s at in his career, he may be willing to try. That’s the key word there– try. He could look at it the way Chris Bosh did with the Miami Heat or Kevin Love with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Good players who sacrificed their games to win. Or he could take the Kevin Durant approach and sacrifice nothing. The Warriors let Durant be Durant but Carmelo is no Durant.
Harden tends to go iso a ton with an average of 5 seconds per touch and 19 shots per game. Melo averages 1.8 seconds per touch to go along with 19 shots as well. So where does that leave Paul and his 13 shots per game? Is Paul to reduce his game to Beverley’s status where he just watched as Harden did whatever he wanted to do? Then what happens to their inside game? Once again– Paul has played with an elite post player and so has Harden but Melo– not so much.
While the pairing of the three would surely look exciting on paper and with Mike D’Antoni running the show– it will look like an All-Star game but the three players mentioned are not a good fit together. This is not the Heat, Celtics or the Warriors. You’re asking guys who never won to try to get to a level that takes total teamwork. Paul and Harden should be able to find common ground but Melo will struggle in this regard.
It’s not that he’s used to being the man and he will balk at the title of 3rd option. It’s the fact that he’s never played with talent like this before in a regular season and will struggle to adapt.
As good as Paul and Harden are– it’s too much to ask of them to have to dumb down their game for a player who will be asked to up his game.
And the most important factor of this all. What will the Rockets be forced to give up for Melo? With his addition, it will seem fitting that defensive ace Ariza will be moved and possibly Ryan Anderson. If so then that will shake the core of the team. Anderson is a big man– who when motivated can crash the boards and is still one of the best stretch 4’s in the NBA. Ariza, although not as flashy as Anthony adds that defensive spark to the Rockets that Harden has run away from. With Melo, the Rockets must know that defense will not be on the agenda.
In 2016, the Rockets ranked 26th on the defensive end of the court. With Melo, that is sure to drop due to more fast breaks and that being Melo’s and Harden’s weakest point.
This is why the Warriors were so hated. For all the talk of Durant and his scoring ability– the Warriors may have actually been at their best defensively while he was on the floor. The same can be said for the Big 3 of the Heat, Celtics, and Spurs.
This will not be the case in Houston. Melo can try to blend in with Paul and Harden and say all the right things at a press conference but when the game is on the line and a stop or shot has to be made– will he be willing to sacrifice his beliefs for the betterment of the team?
On paper, this unit could be the Warriors kryptonite but that’s why the play the game.