On Tuesday, 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony verbally agreed to join the Houston Rockets next season after being bought out of his current contract by the Atlanta Hawks. The deal with the Rockets is reportedly to be a veteran’s minimum deal (around $2.4 million) for 1-year. Melo was traded to Atlanta as part of a 3-team deal that sent guard Dennis Schroder from Atlanta to Oklahoma City. By trading Melo, when all is said and done and salary and luxury tax is added into the equation, the Thunder should be saving around $100 million.
Melo’s tenure as a member of the Thunder’s big-3 along with Russell Westbrook and Paul George went far from how it was planned to go. Melo had perhaps the worst career of his season over this past year. He averaged career-lows in PPG (16.2), APG (1.3), and free-throw percentage (76.7%). He also shot his lowest field-goal percentage for his career, coming in at 40.4%, and averaged the third-lowest RPG for his career (5.8).
And then, if the regular season didn’t spell enough disaster for Anthony, the playoffs arrived and the Thunder lost in 6 games to the Utah Jazz. He averaged just 11.8 PPG on an abysmal 37.5% from the floor and 21.4% from 3-point land. He also averaged a playoff-low .3 APG during the series. His poor performance caused him to be benched during crucial moments of the series, something that Anthony has reiterated he will refuse to do on a regular occasion.
Melo has reinforced that he will only accept a bench role when he feels “ready to take that role” and until then, he expects to remain in the starting lineup. And what a starting lineup he’ll be joining in Houston. He’ll be alongside 9-time All-Star and close friend Chris Paul, as well as MVP James Harden and rising star Clint Capela. He joins nearly the same Rockets team that narrowly missed defeating the Golden State Warriors last season in the Western Conference Finals. The only important pieces missing from last year’s team are forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, who both signed deals with other teams this offseason.
Melo is not as defensive minded as either of those forwards were, but the Rockets hope that what he lacks in defense he will more than make up for with his offensive skillset. Melo’s one shining accomplishment last season was he made a career-high 169 3-balls. And fortunately for him, this is the exact style of offense Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets run. Last year, believe it or not, Houston actually shot more 3-pointers than 2-pointers, and shot the most 3-pointers out of all the NBA teams, beating the runner up by more than 500 3’s. Melo’s 3-point percentage from last season (35.7%) falls right in line with the Rockets 3-point average from last season (36.2%). So it seems that this move to Houston may better suit Carmelo than his time in OKC.
And while D’Antoni and Melo had some tension with each other back when both were with the Knicks organization, D’Antoni told Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post that he is all for a reunion with his former player.
Hopefully the Rockets will be able to bring Melo back to the elite scorer he once was, and being surrounded by 2 of the best guards in the game sure will help with that. Expect Melo to finalize a deal with Houston in the coming days.