A few weeks after Carmelo Anthony officially joined the Houston Rockets on an one-year, $2.4M contract, the question remains on whether the 10-time All-Star can be a game changer in the team’s effort to claim the NBA title.
Since acquiring Chris Paul last season, the Rockets have been transformed into a title contender.
Although they were one step away from eliminating the Golden State Warriors and advancing to the NBA Finals, Paul’s injury helped the Warriors turn things around and qualify to the Finals for a fourth straight year.
During the off-season, Mike D’Antoni and the team’s administration decided to sign another All-Star that would play alongside the 2018 NBA MVP, James Harden, and Paul, making the Rockets unstoppable.
Houston saw Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Luc Mbah a Moute leave the squad and James Ennis, Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss come in as their replacements. The club’s biggest accomplishment, though, was the addition of Carmelo Anthony.
The latter was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Atlanta Hawks and was immediately waived by Atlanta to become a free agent.
Consequently, the 34-year-old power forward signed with Houston and now has the chance to fight for the NBA title, as he comes closer to retirement year after year.
Anthony comes off the worst season of his career in terms of points per game (career-low 16.2 points, on 40.4% from the field), failing to make the difference on both ends of the floor.
The 10-time All-Star couldn’t be effective as stretch four, while his collaboration with Russell Westbrook and Paul George wasn’t as productive as expected.
With the aforementioned All-Stars being shoot-first players, it was difficult for Anthony to adapt to a different role than the one he used to have in his former teams, where he was the leader and the one that executed most plays.
As a result, he couldn’t be a game changer for Oklahoma City and saw the Thunder be eliminated by the Utah Jazz (4-2) in the first round of the playoffs.
However, I believe things will be much different in Houston.
As the team has been built around Paul and Harden, who are two of the NBA’s best playmakers, the 10-time All-Star will need to adapt to a different playing style, which will allow him to take advantage of his decent three-point shooting and his great isolation skills.
Playing alongside the reigning MVP (Harden), CP3, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela and P.J Tucker, the 34-year-old player knows he will have more space to work with, as he is expected to spend most of his time in the weak side, where he will have more opportunities for open threes and isolation plays.
Another factor that should be taken into consideration is how much playing time Anthony will have and whether he will be a starter or will come off the bench.
The player himself doesn’t seem willing to make this transition, however the Rockets’ coach has mentioned it is possible for Anthony to come off the bench, as D’Antoni believes his player could make the difference when competing against the opponents’ second units.
In addition, if Houston want to see Anthony become a game changer for the squad, they will have to deal with his defensive ineffectiveness.
Given Ariza and Mbah a Moute left the team, D’Antoni will need to find a way to help the Rockets be as effective defensively as they were last year, when they had the sixth-best defence in the league.
As I said, the aforementioned players were great on and off-ball defenders, whereas Anthony is nowhere near this level, so it’s certain that Houston’s top opponents (Warriors, Thunder, LA Lakers etc) will target him in pick’n’roll situations and isolation plays.
With that in mind, D’Antoni will need to differentiate his tactics and prevent the opponents from exposing Anthony’s defensive flaws.
Concurrently, the former OKC player has the experience to work as hard as he can in order to improve his defensive performance and be able to make the difference on both ends of the floor.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Rockets’ decision to acquire Anthony initially decreased their status as odds-on favourites to dethrone Golden State and claim the title.
However, with the beginning of the season less than two months away, Houston are again considered the number one contender for the Warriors’ title, according to most betting sites in the US.
Overall, the addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets’ roster will have certain advantages and drawbacks for the squad, both defensively and offensively.
However, I think the 10-time All-Star fits well to the squad’s playing style, while his friendship with Chris Paul and James Harden will help him adapt to the team in a better and quicker way.
Above all, though, the 34-year-old power forward has the motivation to prove he can still make the difference and become the NBA champion and that’s why I believe he will be the X-Factor for the Rockets next season.