Carmelo Anthony officially signed with the Rockets on Monday after of… I don’t even know why he took this long to join forces with Chris Paul and James Harden. This is literally the worst kept secret of the offseason. I am glad that that this is finally over because it was sad to constantly pull out my phone and see a tweet from Woj or Shams to see that someday signed a two-way contract. Anyways, he is officially a part of the Houston franchise after signing a one-year, $2.4 million veteran’s minimum contract. While it was initially reported that he was projected to come off the bench, it was later clarified that nothing had been decided at this point in time. But the question still remains, will Carmelo Anthony be open to a bench role?
In his 1167 games in college and in the NBA, Carmelo has never come off the bench. And this is something that, for the longest time, did not seem like an option for the Hall-Of-Fame bound forward. When he was traded to Oklahoma, Melo made it clear that he was a guaranteed starter. This is a stance that he has constantly reiterated during the 2017-18 season. During his preseason interviews with the Thunder he laughed the idea off. Honestly, put more effort into his fake laugh than he did on his defense. Oklahoma were bounced ought of the playoffs in a first round to an All-Star-less Utah Jazz. In what would be his last interview in his short tenure with the Thunder, he once again echoed the idea that he would not be a sixth man. Just a couple of week ago, he spoke The Undefeated’s Jemele Hill and said that he would take a bench role when he feels ready to become a sixth man.
The Oklahoma Big Three of Westbrook, George, and Anthony was doomed from the get go. Carmelo never got a full pre-season with the two other superstars. In fact, he was never supposed to land in Oklahoma. His preference was to join the Rockets last summer but Houston was unable to convince the Knicks to take on Ryan Anderson’s albatross of a contract. After having spent the summer of 2017 working out with Harden and Paul, Westbrook may seem like a downgrade from a playmaking perspective. The two simply would not be able to fit together given that they have two very different style of play. To Melo’s credit, he did try to mold his game to fit beside Russel Westbrook. He was behind only Paul George in attempting spot-up threes. Anthony spent most of his minutes as a stretch four after spending most of his career as a small forward. But this was never going to work. It is nearly impossible for a superstar player to go from the number one option to the third option. His posted his worst offensive numbers in his 15 seasons in the league; post career lows in scoring (16.2 PPG), shooting (40.4 FG %), and assists (1.3). He has never been an efficient three-point shooter and has only once shot over 40% from deep. The Thunder acquired him on the hope that he would provide stretch the floor but struggled to do so by only making less than 36% of his shots from beyond the arc. He will not be the third star with the Rockets. That burden falls on Clint Capela. Though, we have seen no evidence to suggest that cameo minutes will be effective on the floor.
Anthony had spent a second straight summer with the Houston backcourt as the trio prepare for the 2018-19 season. Whether he will fit two ball-dominant guards is something we have yet to see. And how the three will work side-by-side in on the onus of Mike D’Antoni. Let us not forget the contentious history between Anthony and the reigning Coach of The Year. The 67 year old coach was driven out of the Big Apple after Carmelo handed him an ultimatum and forced ownership to choose between a player and coach. He veteran forward could be the primary sixth man for the Rockets and he’d be given free reign of the second unit though he will also be on the court with one of the league’s elite playmakers. Houston are a much better shooting team than OKC. That holds to be true unless Harden and Paul are off the floor with Carmelo’s style of play being as inefficient as usual. The Rockets have been successful with their mantra of shooting threes and layups. Adding Carmelo to that mix will be troublesome. If we have learnt anything from the OKC experiment, it is that Melo does not thrive in a supporting role. This is a clash that is inevitable for the Rockets.
The ball is in D’Antoni’s court and he must be savoring this opportunity. Anthony will be a role player and if push comes to shove, Daryl Morey and the Rockets will chose coach over Carmelo. He led the franchise to a team high 65 win season and were a Chris Paul injury away from making the Finals. The style of play that he vehemently rejected is something that he will now have to conform to. Luckily for Melo, he will start as a small forward given that Tucker is the only other viable forward if D’Antoni grants that to him. He might also be sitting on the bench. The ball is on D’Antoni’s court and we will only find out at the end of training camp.