By: Tom McDermott
Over the past week, the Houston Rockets were able to land Carmelo Anthony for the veteran’s minimum salary after he completed a buyout with the Hawks. On the surface, this sounds like a slam dunk for the team coming off a painful loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. A loss that was in part due to a stretch of 27 straight missed three point attempts. Carmelo has also been known to have long stretches of missed shots as well. So, when we really take the time to breakdown this move, it is not as simple as the Rockets adding a future Hall of Fame player for next to nothing.
Many people agree that last season was Melo’s worst in his fifteen year career in the league. In 2018, Melo shot 35.7% from deep and only 40.3% from the field. Even his percentage from the line saw a dip below 80% last season for only the second time since 2009 for him. Despite a conflicting report from Woj, it still appears that Melo will not give up his starting role without a major fight. With that said, Melo is being asked to replace Trevor Ariza, a manageable task for a player of Anthony’s caliber.
Last season, Ariza averaged 11.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 1.6 apg, to go along with 1.5 steals a games. In comparison, Melo put up 16.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 1.3 apg. He also managed to get 0.6 steals per game. Anthony may not be able to match Ariza’s defensive contributions to this team, but he will add a different dimension in scoring. That is, if Carmelo can reduce his volume of shooting, while increasing his percentages. Ariza put up 41.2% from the field and 36.8% from three last season. These percentages were only slightly better than Anthony’s, as previously shown above. If Melo is asked to reduce his volume of shots, we will likely see an increase in the quality of shots taken from him, leading to higher shooting percentages.
This will be absolutely imperative if Carmelo is to succeed with his third team in as many years (Sorry Hawks fans, a few days does not count). It will be the little things that go a long way in determining his success. While I have no question Anthony can far surpass Ariza offensively, every team still needs their glue guy. I highly doubt Melo will be the “glue” for this team, but if he is able to add any cohesion with his offensive ability, Houston will be better for it.
Given the changes made this offseason, Houston appears ready for a potential rematch against Golden State in the Conference Finals. Only this is not the Golden State that swept Cleveland in the NBA Finals. This is the Warriors team that swapped out Javale McGee for Boogie Cousins without losing any major pieces in the process. This team continues to improve far more rapidly than the the rest of the league. So even if Melo embraces his smaller role and thrives with his new team, there is still a five-headed monster awaiting them in the Western Conference Finals.
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