Expectations for Carmelo Anthony in 2018-19
Perhaps one of - if not the biggest - concern for the Houston Rockets this offseason was how veteran Carmelo Anthony would fit in. Through the first four games, the existing assumption that it would take time for Anthony to truly find his role, has indeed proven true true.
The reigning Western Conference regular season champions have stumbled out to a 1-3 start. Chemistry issues and defensive woes have dominated thus far; suspensions and injuries could also delay the Rockets from getting back on track. Anthony is the most magnified newcomer on this team, and his play so far reinforces the need for coach Mike D’Antoni to keep experimenting with lineups and roles.
Although the sample size is small, Melo's statistics have remained somewhat consistent in each game. In 27.7 minutes per contest, Anthony averaged 8.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG. His poor shooting (32.1% from the field and 20% from behind the arc) are the crux of his disappointing contributions. He has a -8.3 Box Plus/Minus to go with a -.2 win-share estimate; although these two statistics may not be too alarming, they are the lowest of his career.
The reality is that Houston has not given many opportunities for Melo to showcase his offensive game. He holds a 17.9 USG%, which is also a career-low. This shouldn't be a surprise, though, as James Harden and Chris Paul are superior ball-handlers. Defensively, Anthony is a liability and has been for some time. Increased effort could mask this over, but through the first few games the Rockets have gotten exposed on the defensive end, especially rebounding.
So, what will this season look like for Carmelo Anthony? With it being so early, every game should be taken with a grain of salt. Chemistry and fit must improve, and hopefully sooner rather than later.
A dive into context and situation reveals there may only be a few ways for Melo to effectively improve his game. Carmelo must shoot the ball more efficiently and become involved in the pick-and-roll game. The tactic is Houston’s go-to for creating open shots. Whether or not Melo is serving as a corner shooter or the player directly involved with the pick, he has to become aware of the situation. This should progress as he becomes more comfortable playing alongside Harden and Paul.
If, for some reason, Houston’s GM Daryl Morey decides to part ways with the former All-Star, his 1 year/$2.4 million contract allows them do just that. Either via trade or buyout, the Rockets could decide to move on earlier than expected. But, it has only been a few games and nobody should go overboard just yet. The best thing to do is continue to monitor his fit with the roster and his ability to score efficiently.
The first four games have been disappointing for both Houston and Carmelo, but it is still early. I believe that he will settle into his role off the bench and become more involved in the PnR game. Projected stats:11.7 PPG (.42 from the field) and 6.8 RPG.