The risk of adding an offensive talent to the Houston Rockets is one that is worth taking.
The Houston Rockets have just about added Carmelo Anthony to the roster and much like the rest of the league, Rockets fans are not sure how to feel about it. With the signing of Demarcus Cousins, the Warriors have become that much harder to catch up to leaving most teams with very little hope of seriously contending.
For the Rockets, given how close they were to dethroning the Warriors last season, taking a low-risk swing for the fences like this makes a lot of sense. The Rockets will be fine with or without Carmelo Anthony. But with Carmelo in the right circumstances, the Rockets can be that much closer to catching Golden State.
He wouldn’t be a primary ball handler
With Chris Paul and James Harden being the primary ball handlers for the 1st unit, the Rockets don’t necessarily need a player that can go and get his own shot. Their offense is at its best when Harden, Paul, and Capela are surrounded by capable spot up 3 point shooters that can punish opposing teams for collapsing on either ballhandler.
Although Carmelo certainly can fill that role if he chooses, he is not at his best when limited to spot-up duties. James Ennis is a capable shooter from beyond the arc and a very good defender that would thrive in a limited offensive role next to ballhandlers like Chris Paul and James Harden.
The conundrum teams have with Carmelo is that his offense can be a blessing or a curse depending on the situation you put him in. Often Anthony acts as a funnel for the offense getting most of his buckets through isolation situations and dominating the possession time.
With the first unit, there’s an overwhelming amount of opportunities for players to be stepping on each other’s toes and disrupting the offensive flow, and the last thing you want is to disrupt Harden and Paul’s ability to create for others by taking the ball out of their hands.
Carmelo’s isolation does not necessarily fit with the Rockets offensive philosophy for the 1st unit. Although the Rockets run a lot of isolation with Harden and Paul, they run it in order to not only score, but also free up teammates for open shots where Carmelo runs it primarily to score.
A bench role would be perfect
Coming off the bench and operating as the primary scorer for the 2nd unit would be the perfect situation for both Carmelo and the Rockets. Not only would Carmelo not have to sacrifice the style of play that has led to him being a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, but the Rockets would also have a guy that could come in off the bench and provide instant offense while the 1st unit recovers.
In an article by Jemele Hill, Anthony was asked about the potential of coming off the bench, to which he responded “When I feel like I’m ready to take that role, then I’ll take that role. Only I know when it’s best for me to take that role”. Clearly, he is still averse to the idea as it is something he has never had to do in his career, but the Rockets bring something to Carmelo he hasn’t had before, a winning culture.
What will it take for it to work?
The key going forward will be communicating with Carmelo and getting him to buy into the culture Houston has established. James Harden perhaps said it best in an interview during Team USA’s mini-camp in Vegas, “It’s all about communication. Obviously, it’s a lot of egos, a lot of talent, but some of that has to sacrifice in or to get to where we want to go”.
Harden then went on saying “Everybody in the world knows what Carmelo brings, how gifted and talented he is. He still has a lot more to go. If he comes to the Rockets, we will bring the best out of him, and I am sure he will bring the best out of us as well”.
If the Rockets can’t get the best out of Carmelo Anthony they can write this whole thing off as a failed experiment and continue about their business of winning. But if they can, the Rockets get a little closer to catching Golden State and hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.