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.

Report: Rockets looking to add one more wing rotation player via trade

Getty Images
9 Comments

At 5 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony will clear waivers and soon after his signing with the Houston Rockets will be official.

Anthony, alone, does not solve the Rockets’ questions on the wing, however. They also have solid rotation players in James Ennis and Gerald Green on the roster, but the Rockets are looking to add one more player to the rotation. They have talked with the Atlanta Hawks about a Kent Bazemore trade (allegedly for Ryan Anderson and a first-round pick, although if I were Atlanta I would hold out for more, that pick would be one of the last in the first round next year).

That’s not the only place the Rockets are looking, Zach Lowe of ESPN said during his recent podcast (with Chris Herring of 538).

“I’ve heard [the Rockets] have talked to the Heat. The Heat are kicking a lot of tires. I can’t figure out what they’re trying to do, but I could see like Tyler Johnson, same package, same idea: two years of salary left at about the same number. One guy is a better fit [against] the Warriors, one guy’s not [in Ryan Anderson]. Is our first-round pick to a team that is out of future first-round pick good enough?”

“I’ve heard [the Rockets] have also kicked the tires on JR Smith. That’d be good.”

Nobody knows what direction the Rockets ultimately will go or where they will be able to find a trade that works for them. Teams are not lining up to take on two years of that Ryan Anderson contract (even though he can still play and provide value).

The point is that GM Daryl Morey is not done — he wants to add another player on the wing, one that helps them match up better with the Warriors. Golden State remains the target for Houston (and every other team in the league).

Rumor: Rockets, Pelicans interested in Kent Bazemore trade

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Atlanta Hawks are rebuilding. Rookie Trae Young will be handed the keys to the point guard position (with Jeremy Lin in the interim), which meant Dennis Schroder was out (traded to Oklahoma City). Young men such as John Collins, Omari Spellman, and (at least for a year) Alex Len will populate the frontcourt.

It also means any veterans of value on the roster could be traded.

Enter Kent Bazemore. Which makes this note from Kelly Iko of the USA Today’s Rocketswire worth passing along:

Houston is still active on trade fronts, perusing the market for a wing defender, and remains interested in Kent Bazemore of the Atlanta Hawks—according to a person with knowledge of the situation….

The Pelicans are also a team interested in acquiring Bazemore, but Atlanta is not interested in taking on Solomon Hill. New Orleans also has its 2019 first-round pick.

Both teams could use Bazemore, as both want some help on the wing. Bazemore is a quality “3&D” player on the perimeter, probably the best player on a bad Hawks teams last season. He scored 12.9 points per game last season but more importantly bounced back from a down year with good three-point shooting (39.4 percent), using his drives to draw fouls, and providing leadership on a team that needed it. He will make $18 million this season with a player option for $19.3 million next season.

In Houston, Bazemore would play the two/three mixed in with James Ennis, Eric Gordon and Gerald Green (I think it’s a safe bet to say the Rockets will continue to start James Harden in there, too). The challenge is structuring the trade — Atlanta isn’t going to just take on Ryan Anderson‘s remaining two-years, $41.6 million without a lot of young players/sweeteners (and the Rockets’ own late first-round picks aren’t going to cut it). Built to win now, the Rockets aren’t flush with the kind of young talent that would interest Atlanta in a deal.

In New Orleans, Bazemore could start at the two next to Jrue Holiday and the fit would be smooth and an upgrade. Again, the challenge is how to structure a trade: E'Twaun Moore plus some young prospects and picks could work, but the Pelicans aren’t loaded in the young player/picks department, either.

Atlanta is in no rush. Bring Bazemore back, start the season with him, and wait for a good trade option to emerge either at the deadline or next summer. The Hawks don’t need to make a bad trade just to do it, they can ride this out. No pressure. If Houston or New Orleans or anyone else wants to make a trade, the pressure is on them to put together a better deal.

Where will Carmelo Anthony play next? Bet on banana boat buddies.

16 Comments

When you wonder where Carmelo Anthony is going to play next, you need to think back to his buddies on the banana boat.

As had been expected, Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder are working toward a parting of the ways — via trade, buyout, stretch or some combination of all of it. This was the right move for both sides: the Thunder will save $80 million to $100 million in luxury tax (depending on how a deal is put together); ‘Melo doesn’t want to play a shrinking role in Oklahoma City, and that’s all that would be available to him.

Once this all gets worked out, where will Anthony sign next? On a veteran minimum deal (most likely, maybe a small exception) he can fit financially on any elite team in the league. Let’s break down the contenders, and it all starts with the teams who have his banana boat buddies.

• The Houston Rockets (and banana boater Chris Paul). We know the Rockets like Anthony, they worked very hard to get him last summer before a trade with the Knicks just fell apart (because someone in New York sobered up and thought “we don’t want Ryan Anderson and that contract”).

We also know there’s a natural fit in the roster because Trevor Ariza bolted to take Phoenix’s cash. Anthony can space the floor as a shooter, he hit 35.7 percent from three last season and was solid on spot-up jumpers. The Rockets are an isolation heavy team, and isolations/post-ups accounted for 32.5 percent of Anthony’s possessions last season. And he can still get buckets at a fair rate that way.

The problems are Anthony is not a three anymore — he played either no minutes or just 250 there last season for OKC (depending on how your ranked him with certain lineups), he was always a four — and he is a defensive liability, he can be targeted on the switches that are the heart of the Rockets’ defensive strategy (Anthony did better on switches statistically than you would think during the regular season, he wasn’t bad, but in the playoffs the Jazz targeted him and played Anthony off the court.

• The Los Angeles Lakers (and banana boater LeBron James). The Lakers are trying to amass some veterans and playmakers/scorers to go around their young core and LeBron so they can win games this season, yet remain flexible going forward. Anthony could fit in with that, plus the Lakers’ roster is nearly devoid of shooting and Anthony can still do that.

The challenge with the Lakers is fit. The Lakers don’t want to take the ball out of the hands of LeBron or Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma, and those are the guys who will split time at the forward slots for L.A. next season. Put simply, the Lakers would be slowing the development of their best young talent if they bring in and lean on Carmelo, and that is just not smart. Still, never say never to this as a one-year experiment.

• Miami Heat (and banana boater Dwyane Wade). This actually makes some sense on the court, Anthony could step in and fill the shooting big role that Kelly Olynyk filled for the Heat last season. During the regular season the Heat can hide Anthony defensively thanks to the versatility of James Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Justise Winslow.

Miami’s medical staff and conditioning focus have extended the career of many a player, that could be good for the 34-year-old Anthony. But Erik Spoelstra and staff will want to keep Anthony in a specific role and will be blunt with him about it. Is that what Anthony wants to sign up for?

• The Golden State Warriors. If Anthony really wants to ring chase, he can lob them a call. However, talk about a team that wants to play fast, move the ball, defend hard, and put Anthony into a very small role, this would be the pinnacle of that. Golden State can play Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Jordan Bell key minutes at the four, Anthony would be a luxury. After what Anthony said following the playoffs last season when the Thunder shrunk his role during the playoffs (he didn’t like it one bit) it’s hard to imagine he signs up for this.

• Other teams may jump into the mix. The question Anthony needs to ask himself is what he wants most? Touches and a big role? A title? Those two things are not coming in one package, so where is that line? Only Anthony can answer that question.