According to multiple reports, the Houston Rockets are expected to cut ties with Carmelo Anthony soon. Did the team give up on him too quick?
We’re a few weeks into the season, and it took the Rockets until Sunday night on Nov. 11 to secure their first home win of the season. That’s one of the best ways to explain just how bad Houston has played this season.
Everyone has been trying to find the source of Houston’s struggles and Carmelo Anthony has been the easy scapegoat.
Sure, the Rockets lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute over the summer. But let’s be honest, those losses weren’t big enough pieces to send Houston into a tailspin this big. Anthony was Houston’s biggest acquisition over the summer and everyone, fans and critics included, couldn’t wait to see how Melo would fit in with this team.
Seven losses over the first 12 games isn’t exactly what anyone expected, but to put the blame solely on Anthony is totally unfair. The Rockets as a team have been flat-out terrible throughout most of the season, not just Anthony.
After finishing just 3-of-14 from the field on Sunday, Eric Gordon is shooting just 32.2 percent from the floor and 23.1 percent from 3-point range this season. Chris Paul is shooting just 40.5 percent from the field this year, and his offense has all but disappeared throughout multiple points in the season. After finally finding his niche with Houston last year, Gerald Green has started off the season making just 25.9 percent of his 3-pointers. Even after a 40-point outburst in his latest game, Harden is averaging fewer points and assists, more turnovers and a lower field goal percentage than he did a season ago.
As a team, Houston’s offense ranks just 23rd in the league. Their defense ranks just 19th, although it has been better in recent games. The Rockets are only 25th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, even though the offense is built around their ability to make 3’s. When Clint Capela is on the bench, Houston’s rim protection is non-existent, as they are giving up 50.3 points in the paint per game.
Here’s my point: we can’t blame Houston’s struggles on Carmelo Anthony because the team as a whole has been awful. But, there’s a case to be made that Anthony simply doesn’t fit in this system, and he has made a struggling team even worse when he’s on the floor.
The Rockets are doing the right thing by looking to move on from Carmelo now instead of later
Anthony has had a few very solid games with Houston, but his bad shooting nights have almost made us forget about the rest. He still wants to take mid-range shots, and at times he looks out of place taking contested mid-range pull ups in an offense that is purposefully designed to nearly eliminate such shots.
Anthony has never been committed to playing defense and as he has aged defending perimeter players has become a huge challenge for him. Whenever Anthony is on the floor, opposing teams are putting him in as many pick-and-rolls as possible in order to exploit his lack of lateral quickness.
When Anthony’s shot is falling, he can still add so much to any offense. But when his shot isn’t falling, there’s almost no point in playing him, because he doesn’t offer anything else besides scoring.
Gary Clark has shown that he can hit the open 3-pointer, but he is also a very solid defender. Even when his shot isn’t falling, he’s still valuable when he’s on the floor, which is why he’ll likely eat into Anthony’s minutes if Houston elects to keep him around.
Houston’s net rating improves by 11.1 points per 100 possessions when Anthony isn’t on the floor according to ESPN. If that trend were to continue, Anthony’s role on this team would shrink and shrink as the season went on.
The Rockets should explore trade options with Melo first, and if nothing looks appetizing then they can just waive him. Then they’ll have time to look at the pieces they have now, take note of where they need to improve, and make the proper adjustments before the trade deadline in February if necessary.
The Carmelo Anthony experiment was a worthy experiment. Like many experiments, it didn’t work, and now its time for the Rockets to move on.