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The Houston Rockets are still better than the Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 23: Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) looks towards the bench versus Oklahoma City Thunder during the game 4 of the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs on April 23, 2017, at the Chesapeake Energy Arena Oklahoma City, OK. (Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 23: Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) looks towards the bench versus Oklahoma City Thunder during the game 4 of the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs on April 23, 2017, at the Chesapeake Energy Arena Oklahoma City, OK. (Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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A crazy turn of events saw Carmelo Anthony get traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder last weekend.

Melo was supposed to be a Rocket. That’s what has been rumored and almost confirmed for months now. Unfortunately, Houston just did not have the assets to get him through a trade. So another team swept in and made a deal for him: the Oklahoma City Thunder. This trade has brought many hot takes and opinions, so here’s my thought on the matter:

Even after the Carmelo Anthony trade to the Thunder, the Rockets are still the better team. They will finish with a better record and go deeper in the playoffs. Those are bold claims, yes, so let’s back them up a bit.

Reason No. 1: Depth

The Rockets are a team blessed with incredible depth. During the offseason, that was a big goal for Daryl Morey. He went out and signed a couple wing defenders to put on the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker are versatile players that will fit perfectly with the second unit of the Rockets. Eric Gordon and Nene Hilario are both going to be back as well to round out the incredible bench.

Oh yeah, and the Rockets got Chris Paul. Either he or James Harden will be on the floor at all times as Mike D’Antoni has stated. That will make the bench squad even better and scarier for opposing defenses. Take a look at the projected bench of the Rockets against the projected bench of the Thunder:

Rockets: CP3/Harden, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, Nene

Thunder: Raymond Felton, Alex Abrines, Jerami Grant (maybe Melo or PG), Patrick Patterson, Dakari Johnson

No offense to the Thunder, but this choice is a no-brainer. The Rockets bench is full of players that could be starters on other teams. The bench of the Thunder still has solid players, like Patterson, but is by far the weakest part of the team. Their depth at center is pretty atrocious.

Reason No. 2: Fit of the stars

Thunder

On paper, a team with Melo, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and others is a fantastic team. Still, I wonder about how they will fit together. Westbrook is a willing passer at times but has a tendency to hold onto the ball and find his own shot. He is the reigning MVP, though, and has the talent to try to make this team run.

Carmelo has never been a part of a team where he was not the first option. He has never averaged under 20 points per game. Will Melo be able to put aside his personal stats for team success?

Paul George is someone who has never played with another star player before (besides the Olympics). Can he figure out his role with the team and will it be something that he enjoys doing? If his stats take a serious hit and the Thunder are not as good as they are expected to be, PG could be gone next summer.

All three of the stars have been volume shooters for their respective teams throughout their careers. During his best years, Paul George took over 15 shots a game. Carmelo Anthony has never attempted less than 16 per game in his career. Russell Westbrook is a shot-taking machine. Can they put egos aside and find an easy medium? Who knows, but my money is on the Rockets figuring things out better than the Thunder.

Rockets

The stars of the Rockets are both willing passers who are excited to work with each other. Chris Paul and James Harden played many games together all summer, so they have a head start on working things out between the two.

Chris Paul says he doesn't believe he's ever played with someone the caliber of James Harden pic.twitter.com/bDFIYQSjd3

— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) September 25, 2017

While James Harden is a volume shooter, Chris Paul certainly is not. In fact, CP3’s career high in shots per game (16.1) is actually lower than Melo’s career low in shots per game (16.4). While they obviously are two completely different players, that is something interesting to note. Chris Paul has no problem taking fewer shots and will still get his points due to his great efficiency.

There will certainly be an adjusting period for the Rockets, but I see their stars meshing better than those of the Thunder. Westbrook’s ball-dominance was one of the reasons Kevin Durant left the Thunder, will the same thing happen next season with PG and Melo?

Reason No. 3: Coaching

The Rockets have a perfect coach in Mike D’Antoni to help Harden and Paul figure things out. MDA is someone who transforms guards and brings them to their full potential. You could see that last year when Harden took a huge step forward in his overall game.

Billy Donovan is a great coach but has his hands full trying to get all three stars their touches. He will have to make a big adjustment to his offensive system this year to keep everyone happy.

Overall, the Rockets should find more success than the Thunder this season. Both teams will be extremely fun to watch but look for the more well-rounded Rockets to finish above the team from OKC.

Who do you think will be the better team next year?

The Thunder get Melo and suddenly people think the Rockets are a 4th or 5th seed. How?

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) September 26, 2017

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