Acquiring Melo Doesn't Make Houston Best in West
Carmelo Anthony is the latest name in the drama that is the NBA offseason. After opting in to a $28.3 million dollar player option, it was reported that Melo and the Thunder expect to part ways “at some point” this offseason. If you don’t know already, the Thunder currently own a ridiculous $310 million payroll and tax bill. Moving Melo would take over $100 million in total off the books for next season. If the Thunder cannot find a trade partner, they can waive Melo and pay him via the stretch provision, which will pay him his $28 million over multiple years, but keep his contract off the books for the 2018-19 season.
The move makes sense for both sides. Aside from the money, the Thunder were a more efficient team without Melo on the floor last year. As a result, there were conversations of a reduced role for the 10 time all-star. Anthony publicly stated he had no intention of coming off the bench, so it’s clear he would not be in favor of taking a backseat even if it meant the team would be better off. Thus, getting both sides to a point where a split seems like the best option.
When Russell Westbrook and Paul George were on the court WITHOUT Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder had a +14.4 Net efficiency rating... When Melo joined Russ and PG, that number fell to +4.9— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 6, 2018
A number of teams have been linked to Anthony, including the Lakers, Heat and Sixers. Feelings around the league however, are that Houston is the favorite to land Melo. The Rockets tried to trade for Anthony back when he was on the Knicks but both sides could not agree to a deal. Now, with his good friend Chris Paul leading the charge, it looks like Houston will finally get their man. The issue is, Anthony won’t be the piece that puts Houston over the edge.
Many believe Melo can slide right into the spot left by the vacated Trevor Ariza. While on paper he can, he’s a completely different player. Ariza is a great 3-and-D player. He exerts most his energy on defense and feeds off the playmaking ability of Harden and Paul. Anthony is the opposite; he is a 3-and-no D player. He is a major downgrade defensively from Ariza and needs the ball in his hands on offense.
Many believe a trio of James Harden, Chris Paul and Anthony could get them over the mountain that is Golden State, especially when the common consensus is that they would have done it with a healthy Chris Paul in Game 7 this year. Here’s the issue, who does Anthony guard? Ariza was a reliable defender, and could switch onto anyone Golden State had on the floor. Anthony is not the same, and with James Harden, another weak defender on the floor, there’s potential for two mismatches for Steve Kerr and the Warriors to pick on. Houston might be able to score at will, but they can’t stop anyone with that line up.
A lot of people thought acquiring Chris Paul would not work with James Harden running point in Houston. Mike D’Antoni proved his offense could fit the both of them. But is it big enough to fit three ball dominant players? We saw how it worked in OKC. While Russ and George are different from CP3 and Harden, it’s still a question that has to be asked. There's also the bad history between Anthony and D'Antoni. While the coach came out and said admitted he would be open to Melo joining, it's not a given he will fit a second time around.
Houston is making a hard push to land Anthony, but their real effort should be put towards Clint Capela. Capela is more crucial to D’Antoni’s offense than Anthony.While he would require a much higher payday, he helps the offense more. D’Antoni has said it himself, the center role is crucial in the pick and roll game. Capela thrived off that with both guards and will help the offense run efficiently more than Anthony will. Houston may be the favorite to land a 10 time all-star, but that doesn’t make them better than Golden State.