There were a few things that were a given back on July 1 heading into free agency: Kevin Durant would re-sign with the Warriors, Chris Paul was going to stay in Houston, the Washington Wizards would find a way to make their bad locker room chemistry worse…
And Carmelo Anthony would end up in Houston.
Every source I have talked to through free agency and at Summer Leagues saw ‘Melo as a Rocket as all but inevitable. Anthony’s people have not exactly been subtle about their efforts.
Thursday’s three-team trade that sends Anthony to Atlanta — where he will be bought out at full price, no discount — clears the way for him to become a Rocket. After Anthony clears waivers, the deal will get done.
Is that a good move for the Rockets is another question.
Anthony and coach Mike D’Antoni had their problems in New York. Both say they are past those now, but when issues flare up again, will the history? And issues will flare up.
With James Harden and CP3, the Rockets offense is built on efficiency — there may be a lot of isolations, but they get threes and shots at the rim with a team of guys willing to move the ball for a better shot. That’s not Anthony. He can still get buckets, and he shot 35.7 percent from three last season, but Anthony is not a guy who moves the ball or is efficient anymore (40.4 percent shooting overall last season). He relies heavily on post up and isolations ( 32.5 percent of Anthony’s possessions last season), and he’s still reasonably efficient on those. But he’s a ball stopper, something Harden and Paul are not for all their isolation plays.
Defensively he is nowhere near Phoenix-bound Trevor Ariza or Clippers-bound Luc Mbah-a-Moute. Anthony will get targeted on switches and played off the floor at the end of games and in the playoffs. James Ennis is a better option for the Rockets in many lineups.
If Anthony can accept a sixth man role, he could really help the Rockets. However, after the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs last year, Anthony was asked about doing that for OKC and literally laughed the question off. Maybe playing with Harden and CP3 on a contender changes things, but I will see it when I believe it.
Anthony is going to be a Rocket next season. How well that works is something to watch.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Royce Young of ESPN:
The Thunder save money in this trade next year by going from Anthony to Schroder. But they could have saved far more simply by stretching Anthony themselves.
Stretching Anthony would have meant a cap hit of $9,309,380 each of the next three seasons. Instead, Oklahoma City will pay Schroder $15.5 million each of the next three seasons.
Why increase that financial burden?
Schroder is an intriguing backup to Russell Westbrook and just 24. Even if he’s overpaid and facing the prospect of felony battery charge, he can play. Anthony’s stretched cap hit can’t. Raymond Felton provided steady backup-point guard minutes last season and re-signed, but he’s 34. Oklahoma City can’t rely on him forever.
The Thunder might have viewed Schroder as worth the difference between his salary and Anthony’s stretched cap hit, and there’s some logic to that. But if Oklahoma City tries to flip Schroder down the road, potential trade partners will evaluate his full salary.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot isn’t nothing, either. The 23-year-old former first-rounder is a project with 3-and-D potential.
On the other hand, the Thunder also surrender a potential first-round pick in the deal. And with Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams locked into lucrative contracts, the upcoming season isn’t the only one Oklahoma City must worry about the repeater luxury tax. Schroder’s future salary could become extremely burdensome.
In a pure basketball sense, this trade could make sense for the Thunder. Anthony didn’t fit, and Schroder brings more talent and has a clearer role. Luwawu-Cabarrot has upside. A lottery-protected pick could warrant going from Anthony to Schroder and Luwawu-Cabarrot, though that’s far from certainly worth it.
But I especially wonder about the long-term financial cost. Will Schroder’s salary the following couple years eventually lead ownership to cut costs and shed better players? If Clay Bennett’s willingness to pay extends beyond the following season, more power to him.
And more power to Anthony, who gets all his money and free agency. Expect him to sign with the Rockets once Atlanta waives him.
The Hawks – nowhere near the luxury tax, let alone the repeater tax – could handle waiving Anthony more easily than the Thunder could have. They get a nice draft pick for their trouble – and to unload Schroder.
Schroder was a leftover from the previous Atlanta regime, and Travis Schlenk is ready to build around Trae Young at point guard. Jeremy Lin is the stopgap veteran backup. There was no place for Schroder.
Justin Anderson only adds to the Hawks’ return. It might be getting late quick for the 24-year-old, but he’s strong and athletic. If he improves his shot, he could be a very helpful 3-and-D player. There’s such a premium on wings, it’s well worth betting on developing him – especially for a rebuilding team like Atlanta.
The 76ers have shifted into winning mode, and Mike Muscala should help. He’s a good 3-point shooter for a big and capable of defending inside and out. Philadelphia adds no long-term cost, as Muscala is entering the final year of his contract with a $5 million salary.
The 76ers also clear a roster spot in the 2-for-1 swap, which could lead to last year’s second-rounder, Jonah Bolden, signing.
“We may not see this on day one, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] Death Lineup with Lonzo [Ball], Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron,” a second Lakers executive said.
LeBron at center is a dangerous weapon. The Cavaliers showed it more during the 2017 playoffs – to positive effect.
But LeBron isn’t Draymond Green, who makes Golden State’s Death/Hamptons Five Lineup function. Green possesses a unique combination of rim protection and – through his ball-handling and especially passing – ability to get into offense quickly. LeBron isn’t as good at protecting the paint, and though he’s lethal in transition when he wants to be, he’ll be fighting years of slow-down habits.
I also wonder how much LeBron embraces the physical toll of playing center. The Lakers have only JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner at the position. Are they banking on LeBron playing there a significant amount during the regular season?
LeBron would likely accept the role more enthusiastically in the playoffs. But Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will be tested – at least initially – by the heightened level of play. I’d be wary of overly relying on that lineup.
But this is the best way for the Lakers to get talent on the floor and overcome spacing concerns. I’m absolutely excited to see it in action. Whatever concerns I have about it are only multiplied with other potential Lakers lineups.
The Nuggets have been noncommittal about their plans for Porter, but they’ve given an eyebrow-raising update.
Michael Porter Jr. has undergone surgery of the lumbar spine at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Tex. The Procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett. There is no timetable for his return to basketball participation.
Porter is a talented forward with the length and skill to make a major impact as a scorer.
But, as this latest surgery underscores, drafting him carried terrifying risk. Denver will have to bear that for a while.