Why the Houston Rockets Should Not Pursue Carmelo Anthony

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIMarch 16, 2014

The Houston Rockets should avoid the temptation of going after New York Knicks superstar forward Carmelo Anthony this summer. 

The New York Post's Marc Berman, citing a league source, recently reported that Houston will make a run at Anthony in the offseason should he decide to become a free agent. In the article, Berman also added this:

The Knicks have held discussions with the Rockets about power forward Omer Asik.  Even though Rockets president Daryl Morey is the pioneer of advanced statistics and Anthony has never fared well in some efficiency categories, Morey’s old-school instincts believe he could form a terrific Big 3 with Dwight Howard and James Harden. Rockets management also believes Anthony has made advancements in the grit department the past two seasons.

However, the Anthony-to-Houston story is an idea that is better in theory than it would be in reality. Championships aren't won on paper and, as enticing as a 'Melo-James Harden-Dwight Howard trio would be, there are reasons for Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to think against it. 


The Cost


Since the entire story hasn't moved past the rumor stage yet, we don't know what the Knicks' asking price would be in a potential sign-and-trade for Anthony. As Berman writes in his report, the Rockets would have to throw in the expensive expiring contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin (owed roughly $15 million a piece next season) to make things work financially. 

From a talent perspective though, Houston would need to include more than a couple of pricey role players. That means possibly draft picks and either emerging power forward Terrence Jones or current third wheel Chandler Parsons. 

The Rockets' second unit is already drastically thin. The 26.8 points per game that Houston's bench is contributing puts them at 24th in the NBA. Now, you're asking the team to give up its two best reserves in exchange for an upgrade at a position of strength.

In addition, Houston could be trading away Parsons or Jones, both of which are emerging talents on cheap contracts. Jones is the more expensive of the two with a price tag of $1.6 million for next season and a team option for nearly $2.5 million in 2015-16. 

The draft picks, which should be the most enticing to New York given their situation, would more than likely be late first-rounders. Still, in a draft as deep as this year's is expected to be, that pick could have some real value. 

To recap, the Rockets would be depleting an already weak bench, giving up one of their best young players as well as handing over valuable draft picks just so they could make another huge splash by bringing in Carmelo Anthony. 

Is the fantasy of a Carmelo Anthony-James Harden-Dwight Howard combination really worth throwing away everything that would be used to build around them? How far can a team of those three and not much else really go in a deep Western Conference? 

Winning a championship in the NBA isn't just about throwing a few big names together and calling it a contender. You need role players. You need depth. Both of those aspects take a hit by trying to pull off a fancy sign-and-trade. 

There's always the possibility of finding a third team to help, but who wants to facilitate the creation of yet another NBA powerhouse? 


He Doesn't Fill A Need


The one thing Carmelo Anthony brings to the table in Houston is offense. He's one of the most impressive scorers in the league (currently second in the league with 28 points per game). As it stands, the Rockets already have the third-highest scoring offense in the NBA with an average of 106.2 points per game. 

What Houston is truly lacking is someone who can defend on the perimeter. Defense has never been one of 'Melo's strong suits. According to 82games.com, Anthony has an Effective Field Goal Percentage Allowed of 50.9 percent.  

Now, Anthony and Harden might be a devastating one-two punch on offense, but on the other end? That could be problematic. The reason Houston's pursuit of Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo made sense earlier this season is because Rondo is a two-way point guard that could help Houston in a number of areas. 

Even Daryl Morey's desire to add Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (per ProBasketballTalk's Brett Pollakoff), while far-fetched, was reasonable. The Rockets had just signed Dwight Howard and needed a forward that could space for the floor. 

As for adding Anthony, what's the upside? 

His arrival would help Houston on offense (especially on the perimeter) and on the glass. In other words, Anthony's presence would make an already-good offense even better as well as help a team that's currently sixth in rebounding improve on the boards. 

What about the areas that Houston is weak at? Sure, he may elevate the team's three-point percentage, which is currently at 35 percent (23rd in the NBA) but what about defensively? Is it possible Carmelo could make Houston worse at defending on the perimeter? Maybe. 

That doesn't seem like a worthwhile trade-off to me. 


Who Will Be The Third Wheel?


This is probably the biggest issue of them all. The reason talented trios such as the ones we've seen in Miami and San Antonio work so well is that someone has to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. 

For the Heat, that's Chris Bosh. For the Spurs, it's Manu Ginobili.

If Carmelo Anthony comes to Houston, who is going to be the third wheel? Will it be James Harden, who is currently 13th in the league with an average of 16.5 field goal attempts a game? Harden already spent the early part of his career as a third banana in Oklahoma City before coming to Houston. You think he wants to do that again after becoming a superstar on his own?

Would it be Dwight Howard, who signed an $88 million deal this past summer to split alpha dog duties with The Beard? Howard has done a good job of shedding his knucklehead reputation by making it through most of this season without complaining. Could he stay happy playing with yet another high-profile mouth to feed on offense?

One thing's for sure, it won't be 'Melo.

Anthony currently leads the league in field goal attempts with 1,405. He has taken nearly 100 more shots than Kevin Durant, who has been on an offensive rampage all season (KD is currently at 1,312 FGA). In fact, 2011-12 is the only time in the last five seasons (this year included) that Anthony hasn't been in the top five in field goal attempts. 

It just seems like a tough task for coach Kevin McHale to try to suppress the demands of three players in their prime who have been the No. 1 option at one point in their career. Could it happen? Sure, but is it worth staking the future of the franchise on it? 

Only time will tell if Houston is willing to make a serious run at what could be this summer's top free agent. With Phil Jackson now in the fold, staying in New York just got a little more interesting for Anthony. 

From the Rockets' standpoint, the Anthony rumors are a cute little story to get fans excited this offseason. It's great fodder for social debate and it obviously will spawn a bevy of articles on the subject (such as the one you're reading now). 

In reality, it doesn't make much sense for a team that has worked so hard to become instant contenders. Houston has the fourth-best record in the West and is sixth-best overall. They are just two losses behind the NBA's most famous superteam, the Miami Heat

The Rockets are doing just fine without Carmelo Anthony. They may be a piece away from the NBA's mountain top, but 'Melo isn't the missing link. As much as Daryl Morey likes to tinker with his team and make big splashes, this is one wave that he should avoid chasing. 





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