The Rockets’ offseason strategy seems to built around the old “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” theory. Houston realizes it needs to build a super team of its own if it has any chance at dethroning the Warriors in the Western Conference.
After adding Chris Paul earlier in the offseason, the Rockets are just one superstar short of forming their very own super team and the front office is reportedly in hot pursuit of Carmelo Anthony in order to make that happen.
There are two reasons to be skeptical of a play for Anthony: The first being that it may not be wise to mortgage the future to go into win-now mode while Golden State still has its Curry-Durant-Thompson-Green core intact. The second being that the Rockets aren’t exactly hurting for offense. Houston ranked second in offensive efficiency last season, after all.
The second point was one recently made by former Rockets coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy.
Via the New York Post:
“I think they have a lot on their plate integrating Paul and [James] Harden,” Van Gundy said. “They’re not going to be better offensively than they were last year. They were the second-best team in the league offensively.
“Their improvement is going to have to be defensively. So I’m interested in the Carmelo thing. I don’t necessarily see it as a natural fit.
“He’s a very good player, yet they don’t need help offensively,” Van Gundy said. “They were a fabulous offensive team. I’m interested to see if it happens and who’s involved if it does happen. I don’t necessarily see the fit.”
This makes some sense … at least until you really start to think about what van Gundy is saying.
Yes, the Rockets need to get better defensively and Anthony isn’t exactly known for his defense, but to suggest that the Rockets cannot get better offensively simply because they ranked second last season is just illogical.
The 2016-17 Rockets did not perfect offensive basketball. There is clearly room for improvement. And one of the most obvious needs for the team heading into the offseason was to add more creative players – like Paul and Anthony – in order to take pressure off James Harden and lower his 34.2% usage rate. Harden carried the rockets offense on his back all season so it wasn’t all that surprising when he wore down against the Spurs in the playoffs.
And it shouldn’t be as hard to integrate Paul and Anthony into the offense as Van Gundy is making it out to be. The Rockets weren’t exactly running a free-flowing offense. When Harden was on the floor, Houston would hit defenses with a never-ending onslaught of pick-and-roll. The ball wasn’t coming out of his hands too often. In fact, only two teams passed the ball fewer times per game than the Rockets last season, per NBA.com.
We’re not talking about the Spurs or Warriors here. Throw Paul some of Harden’s pick-and-rolls and give Anthony some of those isolation plays, and the Rockets offense should keep rolling without a hitch as long as Mike D’Antoni figures out how to stagger his three stars’ minutes.
The addition of Paul and the possible addition of Anthony would give Houston a Plan B (and Plan C) for when Harden’s drive-and-kick game isn’t working or he just needs a breather. Paul, like Harden, can get anywhere on the floor, which will send defenses scrambling with two elite scorers out on the wings. And ‘Melo, like Harden, gives the Rockets a second player who can go get a bucket whenever he wants. Sometimes redundancy is a good thing.
As Van Gundy points out, Anthony is not a good defender, but he would be an improvement over Ryan Anderson, who struggles against even immobile forwards. Anthony will be just fine on that end of the court if they can hide him on stretch-4s of undersized power forwards. He’s proven to be an average pick-and-roll defender, even later in his career.
Harden, Paul and Anthony will not have to expel as much energy on the offensive end, which, in theory, should allow them to compete harder on the defensive end. Paul is an all-NBA defender and Harden and Anthony can hold up when engaged. Houston also added two good perimeter defenders in P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, so the Rockets may not be the defensive disaster everyone just assumes they will be if Anthony joins the team.
Houston could, however, be one of the most potent offenses the NBA has ever seen, and that’s really the only shot it has at taking down the Warriors machine.
Read or Share this story: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/07/nba-rockets-carmelo-anthony-jeff-van-gundy-james-harden-chris-paul