Report: Carmelo Anthony to come off the bench for Rockets

9 Comments

Before last season, Carmelo Anthony literally laughed off the idea of coming off the bench. Even after a disappointing year with the Thunder, he called coming off the bench out of the question.

But now that Anthony is headed to Houston

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Rockets are expected to bring Anthony off the bench this season

This is a huge revelation. Considering it’s leaking now, I assume Anthony is on board.

He admitted he was initially reluctant to agree to a buyout, because it’s the sign of a finished player. But he did it. Coming off the bench would be getting over another hang-up.

A reserve role should maximize Anthony’s contributions. His shot creation is most useful when not paired with James Harden and Chris Paul, guards who are better than Anthony with the ball in their hands. And Anthony’s defense is less likely to get exploited by backups.

Why did Anthony suddenly reverse course? It probably doesn’t hurt to have teammates he respects like Paul and Harden.

This surely won’t be easy for Anthony, who has started all 1,054 of his games in his 15-year career. If it doesn’t go well immediately, he might chafe at it. But credit him for at least trying to come off the bench (again, assuming him signing with Houston proves he approves this plan). This looks like progress for him.

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility Anthony, 34, has just declined too much to help a team as good as the Rockets. But a bench role gives him the best chance.

Houston will certainly start Paul, Harden and Clint Capela. Without Anthony, expect two of P.J. Tucker, Ryan Anderson, James Ennis and maybe even Gerald Green at forward.

Report: Rockets trade Chinanu Onuaku, cash to Mavericks for second-round swap

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Rockets have been active in trade talks.

Unloading Chinanu Onuaku – who’s guaranteed $1,544,951 – could help Houston facilitate a deal.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Well over the luxury tax, Houston is probably covering most, if not all, of Onuaku’s salary. By trading him rather than waiving him, the Rockets avoid paying luxury tax on his salary.

This doesn’t mean the Rockets will make another trade. They could just want to add another minimum-salary player (beyond Carmelo Anthony, who’s so Houston-bound, he’s already accounted for).

Or the Rockets could just leave the roster spot open, saving money.

Houston already has a strong starting center in Clint Capela, and Nene is a capable backup. Ryan Anderson will also play center in some matchups. Isaiah Hartenstein and Zhou Qi are projects at the position.

Onuaku got squeezed out. Best known for shooting free throws underhanded, the 21-year-old Onuaku was the No. 37 pick in the 2016 draft. He has spent most of his career in the NBA’s minor league – rebounding, protecting the rim, finishing inside, being way too sloppy with the ball and once pushing a referee.

The Mavericks now have 16 players – one more than the regular-season standard-roster limit – with guaranteed salaries. There’s no guarantee Onuaku sticks, but he’s worth taking a flier on – especially with Houston covering most, if not all, the cost. Dallas has more room for center depth, behind DeAndre Jordan and Salah Mejri.

Clint Capela, Rockets agree to five-year, $80-90 million contract

7 Comments

Clint Capela is going to get paid.

Not as much as he wanted, not as much as he would have been offered most summers, but life-changing money and security that the young center could not walk away from.

The best free agent left on the market, Capela and the Rockets found a middle ground (closer to the Rockets’ side) that will keep the big man at the heart of the Houston defense for seasons to come. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news.

The Rockets later confirmed it.

The contract is five years, no player options, for $80 million guaranteed with $10 million in incentives.

That is close to what the Rockets offered back on July 1 (reportedly five-years, $85 million), a deal that back then Capela walked away from because he thought he could get more. Most summers he would have — Capela averaged 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds a game (with a 24.5 PER) last season, shot 65.2 percent, blocked 1.9 shots a game. He emerged as their third star during the playoffs, a critical piece of the Rockets starting lineup and switching defense. He was able to anchor the paint and protect the rim with all that switching going on, and the Rockets were 4 points per 100 better with him on the floor.

Most summers Capela would have other teams trying to poach him from the Rockets with max or near-max offers (five years, $148 would have been the max from Houston). This summer not a lot of teams had max money and those that did were not looking for a center like Capela (for example, the Sixers had cash but are pretty set at center).

Capela was pinched by the market and left with the tough choice of taking the Rockets offer or something close to it, or playing for the $4.7 million qualifying offer, banking on himself having another great season and staying healthy, then cashing in next summer. He’s a player who has made $6 million so far in his NBA career, it’s tough not to take the security of $80 million. Capela did just that.

With him, the Rockets remain one of the few teams that are a threat to Golden State. The Rockets may have taken a small step back defensively this offseason, but they are title contenders now that they know they have Capela locking down the paint.

Best free agent left, Clint Capela, getting pinched without suitors to push Rockets

Getty Images
14 Comments

Timing is everything.

NBA players are learning that lesson — and, some league officials would suggest learning the cost of not smoothing in the salary cap spike of 2016 — the hard way. Players are looking at the ridiculous contracts of two summers ago (Joakim Noah, Timofey Mozgov, Bismack Biyombo, Luol Deng, etc.), knowing they contribute more than those guys, then looking at the money available today, and frustratedly taking what they can.

Nobody left on the board is getting pinched like Clint Capela, who is now stuck with a choice of two options he does not like.

The Rockets’ center is the best free agent (albeit restricted) still unsigned. He averaged of 13.9 points, and 10.8 rebounds a game (with a 24.5 PER), plus 1.9 blocks a night last season, but that sells his contributions short. Capela is central to Houston’s top-10 defense and a perfect offensive complement to James Harden and Chris Paul, he is an ideal fit as a modern NBA center.

With that, Capela wants to be paid like one of the top centers in the league — his max deal would have been five-years, $148 million from Houston.

Problem is the Rockets wanted to save some money, and Capela was a restricted free agent in a tight market. The Rockets made an offer on July 1, but it was well short of what Capela hoped to see.

That offer well below $20 million a season — it’s less than the Bulls will pay either Zach LaVine or Jabari Parker next season, and anyone sane would rather have Capela than either of those two. The Rockets offer is basically Ian Mahinmi money.

One problem for Capela is there were a lot of centers on the market — not ones as good as Capela, but ones that came in for much less money. With a lot of teams not having cap space and some up against the luxury tax, they couldn’t make offers, and the few that could looked elsewhere (figuring the Rockets would just match any offer anyway).

The other problem for Capela now is no team has much cap room left, the Kings have the most at $11 million, which they can get up to $14-15 million or so, but that’s less than the Rockets’ offer. Besides, the Kings are inclined to take on a bad contract with a sweetener pick/player, not spend on another free agent at this point.

That leaves Capela with two choices:

1) Sign the qualifying offer, play one season for $4.7 million, and become an unrestricted free agent next season.

2) Sign the Rockets’ offer, get paid life-changing money (even if it’s less than you think you’re worth) and continue to contend in Houston for years.

He doesn’t like either.

The early buzz was Capela was leaning toward taking the qualifying offer. However, he has made about $6 million in his NBA career so far, making $85 million is hard to walk away from. That is more than life-changing money, that is generational changing money. Will he risk injury and the vagaries of the market to make what he feels he is worth next summer?

Capela does not have to decide now, he can let this drag out through the summer. Maybe that pressures the Rockets to up or alter their offer.

Either way, it’s the biggest free agent decision left on the board, and it’s not an easy one.

PBT Extra: NBA Summer Power Rankings Top 10

Leave a comment

The dust from the NBA’s summer has largely settled. Sure, the Carmelo Anthony trade has to formally go through so he can sign with the Rockets, and Clint Capela is still hanging out there as a restricted free agent, but now we know what teams are going to look like this fall.

Which means it’s time for our NBA Power Rankings, summer edition.

This video covers the top 10 — spoiler alert (that you already know), the Golden State Warriors are on top — but if you want to see the full list, all the way down to Atlanta, we’ve got that, too. The Lakers and Raptors climbed this summer after the additions of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, respectively, the Spurs are still in it, and the East has plenty of representation in the top 10.