A year ago, the Houston Rockets were the biggest competition for the Golden State Warriors. The two teams jockeyed in the standings for most of the year, before the Rockets ran away with the top seed. They met in the Western Conference Finals, where Houston jumped to a 3-2 series lead before the Warriors came back.
So naturally, their offseason is something for the Warriors to keep an eye on. And they’re about to make a big move that, depending on how you view things, could either really help them, or really hurt them. They’re about to sign Carmelo Anthony.
Carmelo Anthony intends to sign with the Houston Rockets upon becoming a free agent, league sources say, though it could be several more days before Melo is formally traded and clears waivers. Full @NYTSports coverage: https://t.co/8T4kLf6IrT— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 23, 2018
Anthony, who has one year left on a five-year, $124 million contract, was recently traded to the Atlanta Hawks, where he will be waived or bought out. As soon as that is formalized, it’s his intention to sign with the Rockets, who have been linked to him for a few weeks now.
There are a few ways to look at this. On the one hand, Anthony is a 10-time All-Star who has a career average of 24.1 points per game. Even in last year, the worst of his career, he averaged 16.2 points per game. The Rockets really only have three players - James Harden, Chris Paul, and Eric Gordon - who are capable of creating their own shot. Harden and Paul, as well as coach Mike D’Antoni, have a history of bringing out the best in players, and Anthony’s bench scoring could help.
On the other hand, it’s been a while since Anthony was an effective player. He hasn’t shown much of an ability to adapt to his declining skills, even laughing at a reporter last year when asked if he would consider coming off the bench instead of starting. Anthony’s true-shooting percentage of 50.3% last year was notably below-average, and for a player who doesn’t defend, rebound, or pass very well, that’s a pretty big red flag. By any advanced metric, Anthony hurt his team more than he helped them last year.
It also caps off a very weird offseason for the Rockets, who, after knocking on the door of a title last year, let key contributors Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute leave without serious offers. They also low-balled center Clint Capela, who, if things hold as they are, will now have the opportunity to leave the team next summer. And they did all of that after committing four years and $160 million to Paul, signaling that they were all in for the next few years.
So it’s been weird for Houston, and, barring some serious resurgence from the future Hall of Famer Anthony, it seems likely that the Rockets got worse. That’s good news for the Warriors, but bad news for the NBA, as the blossoming rivalry may be over as soon as it started.