13 Reasons Why - Melo Edition
I think I can speak for most Rockets fans when I say that I’m…. uneasy about signing Melo. I’ve never been a huge fan of his and he clearly comes with risk on defense, attitude, and overall fit with the team. However, I did some research and the numbers show that the potential benefits outweigh these risks.
Now that we are in the midst of NBA purgatory (no NBA for months), I have joined most of America in binging my nights away with Netflix. As a nod to 13 Reasons Why, a popular Netflix Original series, this article outlines 13 reasons why Melo will help the Rockets.
Side note: as an Asian American male, it was pretty cool to see an Asian dude play the role of a high school jock in 13 Reasons Why. However, it was NOT cool to watch him hoop in season 1 – he was super uncoordinated, and it made me cringe.
1) The Rockets will save an estimated $62 million in salary and luxury tax
The Rockets had a huge decision to make this summer regarding Trevor Ariza. He was a key part of the Rockets’ run last season that came within inches of making the Finals. However, matching Phoenix’s $15 million offer came with severe luxury tax implications. Signing Melo for the minimum is a far cheaper option, as seen in the tables below.
2) Melo’s defense isn’t THAT bad
Everyone’s initial reaction is to say that Melo’s defense is a huge liability. Surprisingly, last year his defensive rating of 105.6 was almost on par with Ariza’s rating of 104.3 (defensive rating is defined as points given up per 100 individual possessions). Melo’s defense was actually better in certain situations, as the table below suggests.
Don’t get me wrong. I still remember when the Rockets hilariously isolated against him time and time again (“Where the F#$@ was the help?!”). I’m just saying his defense isn’t as bad as we all thought.
3) Melo’s offense is an upgrade
Melo’s strengths are obviously in his offensive game, so its no surprise that he’s an upgrade over Ariza. While spot up situations were about even, Melo was far superior in isolation and post-up attempts. Isolation is of course key to the Rockets offense, and his post-up game can add a diversifying element.
4) Melo greatly outperformed Ariza versus the Warriors
This is perhaps the most important comparison between the two players - Melo played much, much better against the Warriors. The decision to sign Melo will be judged on this very item, did it give the Rockets a better chance to beat the Warriors in the Playoffs?
5) Melo should benefit from the D’Antoni/Rockets system
Almost every Rockets player that was on the roster saw a vast improvement once Coach D’Antoni was hired. Yes, Melo and D’Antoni didn’t have a great track record together in New York, but this is obviously a much better Rockets team where he will be the third option.
6) Melo is a relatively healthy player
In the last three seasons, Melo played in 72, 74, and 78 games. The Rockets dealt with numerous injuries last year, namely Chris Paul’s hamstring in the Western Conference Finals. Melo’s durability will be a welcomed addition, especially in the Playoffs.
7) Melo is an honorary Banana Boat member
Photo Courtesy: SBNation
Melo wasn’t in the original banana boat picture, but he was added to the next trip alongside Wade, LeBron, and Paul (hence the Snapchat filter above). As both a friend and court general, Paul should be able to bring out the best in Melo and help him adjust to what’s needed to win.
8) Harden is also a fan
9) Melo is motivated to win and prove he’s still relevant
Given his rapid decent from grace, Melo will be motivated this year to play his best. He’ll need to show that he still has something left in the tank to another lucrative contract.
10) Rockets are getting him on a fire sale discount
It was just last year that the Rockets were in the hunt to trade for Melo and his enormous contract (at the time, 2 years and $54 million remaining). The Rockets will now sign him for a fraction of that at the veteran’s minimum of $1.5 million.
11) His size can provide defensive flexibility
Melo’s 6’8, 240 pound frame would make him one of the bigger rotation players. Although he will start at small forward, the Rockets can move him to the power forward spot and slide PJ Tucker to center to go small. This group may help at times against the Warriors’ Death/Hamptons Five lineup.
12) Melo is a future Hall of Famer
Daryl Morey places a premium emphasis on star power and Melo certainly has the credentials: 25,000+ career points, six All-NBA teams, 10-time All-Star, 2012-2013 scoring title, three Olympic gold medals, and an NCAA championship.
13) Melo is a gamble with a huge payoff
The gap between the Warriors and the Rockets has only grown larger this offseason. The Warriors’ odds of winning the title are nearly 1 to 2, and the Rockets’ odds are 8 to 1. Simply put, the current Rockets roster likely will not beat the Warriors.
Yes, this could turn out to be a huge mistake. But it could also end up as a stroke of genius. If Melo can return to form, he could be the final piece the Rockets need to overcome the Warriors. With nothing to lose, the decision to sign Melo is pretty clear.