Houston Rockets: Thank You, Next
Earlier this year I wrote an article describing 13 reasons why Carmelo Anthony would benefit the Rockets. Most of those reasons clearly went up in flames along with Melo’s brief tenure with the team. However, the final reason remained true – Melo represented a low risk gamble with a huge payoff. The Rockets ultimately paid him the veterans minimum, tried it out, and moved on. Coach D’Antoni echoed this sentiment in his comments: “We tried to hit a home run and it didn't work out.”
Although it was a small sample size, Melo just wasn’t the right fit. His offensive game wasn’t a mesh with the Rockets’ system, and his defense proved to be too much of a liability.
With Melo on the court, the Rockets’ defensive rating was 111.0 (as in, they gave up 111 points per 100 possessions) per NBA.com. That ranks as the fifth worst in the league. With Melo off the court, the Rockets’ defensive rating dramatically improves to 102.7, good for second best in the league. On the flip side, the Rockets love undrafted rookie Gary Clark who has taken over Melo’s minutes. The Rockets have a 101.1 defensive rating with Gary Clark on the court, and a 109.1 rating when he’s not.
The Rockets staff have repeatedly praised Melo for doing everything asked of him. He accepted a bench role and played fewer minutes without becoming a problem in the locker room. However, it just wouldn’t be right to relegate a future Hall of Famer to a garbage time role. Parting ways with Melo now is the most humane way to end the failed experiment.
The Rockets haven’t waived Melo yet and are instead looking for an interested trade partner. A trade would reduce the Rockets luxury tax bill and allow Melo to join a team he wants to be on (i.e. Miami). The Rockets will likely use the $5.4 million remaining on their mid-level exception to add a wing player in the buyout market. A few 3-and-D guys that could potentially be available include DeMarre Carroll, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and none other than the prodigal son Trevor Ariza.
After offering four first round picks for Jimmy Butler, the Rockets will continue to be aggressive in the trade market. The front office fully recognizes their short window and are willing to go all in to achieve a championship.
It’s hard to feel bad for someone with this kind of paper (see picture below), but this whole situation must be hard for Melo. Accepting a bench roll was hard enough, and the current circumstances must be a bit humiliating. It’s always sad to see a player age out of his prime, especially one with a decorated career. Hopefully Melo can find a team where he can either contribute or act as a mentor and retire gracefully.
Source: ESPN SportsCenter Instagram