Houston Rockets: Is Carmelo Anthony Really an Upgrade over Ryan Anderson?

The Houston Rockets made a few key offseason moves this summer but was it enough to improve their team or hurt them? Gone is Trevor Ariza and finally Ryan Anderson and replaced with former All-Star Carmelo Anthony. While fans are screaming championship, one has to wonder how accurate they really are.

With reports that Anthony may come off the bench, the Rockets must be careful with his minutes. During his career, Carmelo Anthony has never averaged less than 32 minutes per game. This is where Mike D’Antoni will have to be resourceful.

Last season, while with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Anthony averaged 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting .404 percent from the floor. That also includes .357 percent from beyond the arc. So, what’s the difference between he and the forgotten man in the rotation last season, Ryan Anderson?

In 2017, Anderson averaged just 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting .431 percent from the floor. Anderson was considered a perimeter threat and shot .386 from downtown in 26.1 minutes per game. To tell the two sides of the coin, what happens if Anderson was given the six additional minutes that Melo was given? Would his numbers equal out the same? No, and that’s not a knock on Anderson but the Rockets as a team.

The Houston Rockets cannot start Carmelo Anthony.

While a lineup that features Melo, James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela would seem like Super Unit of sorts, there is no way they could win while each player is productive. Case in point was the nightmare Anthony had to live through in his first and only season in OKC. There, Anthony was clearly the third option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The result was a down season across the board for the former All-Star. Now, he will be in the same role once occupied by Anderson.

The issue that D’Antoni will face is minutes. What will he do with Carmelo? If Anderson averaged 26 minutes, Melo should garner 30+ but in doing so, coming off the bench that will take away minutes from P.J. Tucker who brings more value than Anthony or Gerald Green who has earned the right for more minutes heading into 2018. So what’s to be done?

Playing Carmelo Anthony at the PF spot would be a waste given his lack of defense and rebounding skills. On the offensive end, that won’t work given his need to run iso plays and his unwillingness to come off the perimeter.

The Rockets are in need of a slasher and Anthony is not that guy. While he was once a 20+ point scorer, his role is worse off with the Rockets than it was in OKC. In 2017, Paul averaged 31.8 minutes and 13.8 shot attempts. Harden averaged 35.4 minutes and 20.1 shot attempts, and Capela averaged 27.5 minutes and 9.1 shot attempts.

Somewhere between those players, Melo must find a groove. This is what limited Ryan Anderson’s minutes and production. It’s simply not enough balls and minutes to go around. However, if Melo were to come off the bench, then playing him with Eric Gordon will give the Rockets a powerful, yet defenseless second unit. But it still begs the question if he’s just another Ryan Anderson?

What the Rockets need from Anthony is someone willing to attack the rim. The team is made up of perimeter players but no one willing to attack the basket, finish, and get to the line. Paul and Harden will handle the heavy lifting, but they need Carmelo to be their ace in the hole.

Before arriving in Houston, Anderson averaged 30.4 minutes and 17.1 points per game. This is the stat line they will get with Carmelo. The only reason this is a big issue is the money. Anderson was set to make $20 million while Anthony signed for $2.4 million.

The Houston Rockets are taking a minimal risk here in terms of cash, but just like in OKC, their expectations are now raised. If they should fail to win a title, then this will fall on the shoulders of Paul, Harden, and Melo. Adding Carmelo Anthony means more than just adding 16 points, it means adding another recognizable face and more pressure.

But if Melo were to start, then he will need to hit the boards stronger than his career average of 6.5 would suggest. The same goes for his ball movement. Throughout his career, he’s been much of an iso player while averaging just 3.0 assists per game. With Harden and Paul running the show, they might try to force the issue and get him the ball when there are other options available. This wasn’t a concern with Ariza or Anderson.

Carmelo Anthony signed with the Houston Rockets in attempt to finish his career with a ring. The only way this will happen is if he gives the team more than Ryan Anderson did.

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