Everyone has been wondering how Carmelo Anthony will fit into the Houston Rockets offense. But, perhaps more importantly, how will he fit into the team’s defense?
Ever since Carmelo Anthony signed a one-year, $2.4 million contract with the Rockets in mid-August, there has been a never-ending string of questions and opinions about his role (or possible lack thereof) within the Houston offense.
Will he change his mid-range heavy game to fit the Houston mold? Will he (please) take more spot-up threes? Will we finally see Olympic Melo, or dare I say it, Hoodie Melo? Without a doubt, these are necessary questions to answer.
But what about his defense?
Anthony has never been known for guarding the opposing team’s best player or getting a much-needed stop. It’s also obvious that Melo has lost a step or two on defense as he’s gotten older. His lateral quickness just isn’t there, and his focus came and went last year with the Thunder. According to NBA Math, the forward finished the season with -95.73 Defensive Points Saved, which was 11th-worst in the league.
Houston provides a much different dynamic than what Anthony experienced with the Thunder, however.
The Rockets were excellent on defense in 2017-18, finishing with the sixth-best defensive rating in the Association, per NBA.com. They did so by switching an outrageous amount, defending 1,406 pick-and-roll possessions by changing defenders, per Chris Herring, Second Spectrum, and NBA Advanced Stats. That number was tops in the league, and coming in second with 1,075 switches by some team in San Francisco.
The high amount of switching does make it a bit more difficult to hide Anthony on defense, but it can be done. Things will get tough when teams send Anthony’s man to set a ball-screen, forcing him into iso situations against quicker guards.
It is also not ideal to have Carmelo on the floor at the same time as another slow-footed perimeter defender like Harden. If there aren’t defenders on the floor who can guard multiple positions, switching gets tricky.
That is why Anthony’s anticipated participation on the second team is an exciting prospect. Sending out a lineup of Chris Paul and any combination of Brandon Knight, Gerald Green, James Ennis, Marquese Chriss, Michael Carter-Williams, and Nene alongside Melo will be tough to beat on defense, as well as provide some entertaining moments and productivity on offense.
The 34-year old showed some promising signs in Houston’s 131-115 preseason win over Memphis on Tuesday night. Though he made some mistakes, he was closing out hard, talking through off-ball screens, and had his head was on a swivel. In short, the effort that was missing in OKC returned.
Anthony teaming up with Banana Boat brother Chris Paul is key. Paul is sure to push him in every way, especially on defense. If Carmelo really is willing to do whatever it takes to get the Rockets a championship, we could be in for a special year from the future Hall-of-Famer on both sides of the floor.