Rockets GM Darryl Morey has engineered arguably the best offseason in Rockets history. But if Houston wants to make it to the NBA Finals, there is one more transaction he needs to make.
With a top 5 offseason according to David Aldridge, the Houston Rockets had a good summer.
Houston secured MVP candidate James Harden for the future. It brought in gritty wing defenders in Luc Mbah a Moute and PJ Tucker. And in arguably the biggest move of the summer, Clutch City landed perennial All-Star Chris Paul via a sign-and-trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Rockets have positioned themselves as the best challenger to the Golden State Warriors. As summers go, it couldn’t get much better. This has been Morey’s best summer to date.
The missing link
But there is one transaction that still has the NBA universes attention: the future of Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has been linked to the Rockets all summer, going so far as to reportedly proclaim Houston as his only viable trade destination.
The addition of Anthony could potentially transform Morey’s summer into one for the history books, netting Houston its first title in over 20 years.
Space City Scoop’s own Michael Knight made a compelling case that this Rockets team is in a great position to win even if they do not land Anthony.
And while I agree that the Rockets are a superb team that will make some noise this season, to dethrone the Warriors and reach the NBA Finals, Morey needs to trade for Anthony.
Carmelo Anthony adds another offensive dimension
The Rockets did well in landing Tucker and Mbah a Moute. Coupled with forward Trevor Ariza, Houston has a nice complement of quality wing defenders to throw at the Warriors’ sharpshooting collective of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
But as important as defense is against Golden State, it will take offense to beat them over the course of a series. When the Warriors shooters get going and Oracle Arena is rocking, the visiting team is going to need buckets.
In the first round of the 2017 Playoffs, the Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that features one of the best scoring backcourts in NBA history in guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
But even against all that fire power, Golden State took Portland’s best punch and kept rolling to the title. Two offensive options are the way of the old NBA.
Any team looking to contend with the Warriors needs as many weapons as possible. And at the very least, Anthony is an offensive weapon.
Anthony’s scoring prowess will help the Rockets keep pace with the Warriors. His range will force defenses to play him up close, exploiting mismatches and driving lanes for Harden and Paul.
Third Coast Death Line-up
Carmelo Anthony could give the Rockets with its own version of the Death Line-up. Though not as versatile a defender as Warriors’ forward Draymond Green, Anthony is a comparable playmaker and better shooter.
With Anthony moving to the power forward position in certain match-ups, the Rockets can space the floor with capable shooters and round out the line-up with Ariza and forward Clint Capela, adding length and defensive range to this unit.
Anthony would become Shawn Marion 2.0 in head coach Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense, knocking down open looks and creating opportunities from the top of the key.
Much is made of Anthony’s performance in the NBA versus international play. In the NBA, Anthony is labeled a ball-stopper, gunner and other pejoratives.
In international competition, Anthony is viewed as a versatile point forward who affects the game in other ways beside scoring. Why the difference?
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What I would argue, and why I think this trade is so crucial for the Rockets, is that Anthony plays better with better teammates. The reason is simple in its premise but it’s true.
Last year, Durant’s efficiency soared when he joined the Warriors and for good reason. Better players made his job easier.
The same will be true of Anthony’s addition to the Rockets. He has yet to play with teammates the caliber of Paul and Harden, but if he ends up in Houston, then I think Anthony will be at his best.
There is concern about three ball dominant players co-existing on a team, but great players tend to figure it out. From the 2008 Boston Celtics to the 2011-2014 Miami Heat to last year’s Warriors, these situations tend to resolve themselves on the court.
The Rockets had a tremendous offseason and are positioned to improve upon last year’s success. But Golden State changed the math for the entire NBA. Being good is no longer good enough.
All title hopes go through Oakland for the foreseeable future. If Houston wants to hang another championship banner in the Toyota Center, it should continue its pursuit of Carmelo Anthony.