The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a dark-horse title push this season, but the offseason may loom even larger, if recent rumors are true.
Carmelo Anthony could be headed to Houston. It would take some serious salary-cap magic in order to clear enough money for the New York Knicks' high-scoring superstar, but GM Daryl Morey has proved himself a wunderkind in that category.
‘Melo landing in the Rockets’ lineup would likely mean Morey found a way to ship off Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and their onerous 2014-15 salaries, but it also might mean saying goodbye to Chandler Parsons.
The Rockets love Parsons, but they’re coming up on some surely prickly contract negotiations with the third-year wingman that will make him less of a boon to their roster situation. Plus, Parsons is simply too valuable of a piece for the Rockets to keep if they’re to make room for Anthony—just shipping off Asik and Lin might not be enough, as teams will seek to squeeze more out of the Rockets if they know they’re in a bind trying to bring in ‘Melo.
While Terrence Jones may alternately be the talent the Rockets have to part with in order to bring in Anthony, it seems Parsons still holds much more market value and would do more for potential trade partners. And, Jones is locked into a reasonable contract for more years.
A projected starting lineup with Anthony is, thus:
You’d have to be a basketball idiot not to salivate at the dream that is this lineup. While it probably still leaves Howard a bit over-stretched on defense, it also promises to be the most offensively talented lineup in all of the NBA.
Howard is the only member who can’t stretch the floor with shooting, but he can create his own shots in the post. And Beverley is the only one who can’t reliably produce his own offense, but he can shoot well from beyond the arc and is happy to feed off of others. Anthony, Harden and Jones all boast full offensive utility belts, with Harden and Anthony being two of the best in existence at scoring.
Anthony’s world-class shooting and shot creativity make him a perfect fit for the Rockets’ spontaneous-but-efficient full-court approach. Anthony recently retorted to Knicks coach Mike Woodson’s late-game strategies by saying “just play the f**king game,” but in Houston such a command is already in place. The Rockets’ free style would elate ‘Melo and fans alike, who’d be privy to perhaps previously unparalleled scoring pyrotechnics.
Howard, especially, would benefit offensively from Anthony. He's always worked with stretch-four potential players—New Orleans Pelicans forward and former Orlando Magic teammate Ryan Anderson, namely—who give him a more free handle on the post by spacing out the defense and making them respect the three-point line. Imagine what Howard could do if teams weren't allowed to double him.
The prime caveat sure to be trotted out by Rockets speculators is that Anthony and Harden may not play well together. They’re both ball-heavy stars, accustomed to leading their offenses and to having ample leeway with which to create.
Many have said that Phil Jackson’s installation of a more systematic offense in New York (largely believed to be his famed triangle system) would benefit Anthony by forcing him to be a more versatile, team-oriented player instead of a score-first juggernaut. A similar structure may behoove a team with both Anthony and Harden, as the Rockets’ leading scorer has run into some accusations of ball-stopping himself this year.
Coach Kevin McHale’s job security is unknown in Houston, and any gestalt change to their particular style would have to start with him or his replacement.
The more disappointing the Rockets’ playoffs campaign, the more likely change is—as is the case throughout the NBA. But make no mistake: Short of taking home a championship, Houston is all but guaranteed to go after Anthony with everything they’ve got, regardless of how the rest of this season pans out.
Morey’s shown that he believes in the Big Three ethos embodied by the recently faded Boston Celtics, and now—of course—the Miami Heat. It’s what he’s been building toward for years, stockpiling assets while keeping cap flexibility as his franchise seemed to stall for a half-decade.
Now Morey’s almost made it all the way to proving the merit of his market philosophies. No acquisition would back his approach better than that of Anthony, who would instantly turn the Rockets into a super-team, and could make the Rockets a long-lasting dynasty.