On Thursday night, general manager Daryl Morey announced the Rockets are “parting ways” with the 16-year pro as Anthony has struggled to establish himself in a complementary reserve role this season.
“After much internal discussion, the Rockets will be parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and we are working toward a resolution,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey confirmed, adding that, “The fit we envisioned when Carmelo chose to sign with the Rockets has not materialized.”
The 34-year-old had been inactive for Houston’s past four games, listed as out with an illness, but it’s not difficult to read between the lines as to why Anthony wasn’t suiting up for last season’s Western Conference finalists.
After being bought out by the Atlanta Hawks and subsequently signed by Houston for the $2.4-million veteran’s minimum in the off-season, the 10-time all-star is averaging a career-low 13.4 points per game, while shooting just 40 per cent from the floor – on pace to be the lowest of his career. Anthony also sports the lowest plus-minus (minus-6.3) of anyone on the Rockets’ roster, a distinction he shares with Michael Carter-Williams.
Considering Anthony was brought in to primarily serve as a spot-up shooter in Houston’s three-point reliant offence – which never really added up at the time considering he’s never been known for his long-range prowess – it’s not much of a surprise that the partnership between player and team hasn’t been successful. Anthony hits 40 per cent of his catch-and-shoot shots and has an even more pedestrian 36.6 field goal percentage on pull-ups.
Anthony’s skill-set no longer lends itself to the NBA game the way it once did with teams now playing at the fastest pace the sport has seen to date, begging us to ask the question: what’s next for the three-time Olympic gold medallist?
Here’s a list of teams that make the most (or, in some cases, least) amount of sense for Anthony to join, and another potential option for him to consider:
Los Angeles Lakers
Ever since the infamous banana boat photo featuring LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Anthony surfaced back in 2015, there’s been plenty of speculation whenever the possibility of these off-court buddies sharing the floor together presents itself. Well with Anthony’s departure from Houston, we’re faced with another one of those instances: wondering how a LeBron/Carmelo partnership might look.
This partnership would have been far more exciting to fantasize about if Anthony weren’t well past his prime. At this stage of his career, Anthony joining James in L.A. certainly doesn’t improve the Lakers outlook as a contender. This signing, simply put, would be just another flashy acquisition by Magic Johnson. The underlying motive of the Lakers’ roster is based upon maintaining financial flexibility heading into 2019 free agency, meaning Anthony’s acquisition on a one-year deal would be another signing to fit that bill.
Anthony in L.A. would likely decrease minutes for young forwards Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma though, making the move all the more illogical.
If there’s one coach that could maximize the depleted skill-set of Anthony as his post-prime years continue, it’s San Antonio Spurs bench boss Gregg Popovich.
Popovich has a history of finding ways to get the most out of his team, putting his players in positions to showcase the strongest elements of their talent. Just ask DeMar DeRozan, who, under Popovich, is averaging a career-high 6.3 assists while shooting nearly 49.5 per cent on nearly 20 shots per game — all while thriving alongside post-specialist LaMarcus Aldridge in an offence centred around the duo. Considering the Spurs’ already lead the league with 19.3 per cent of their points coming from mid-range, adding another player comfortable operating out of the post like Anthony could actually work out.
For reference, Anthony shoots an impressive 73.7 per cent on post shots, a mark that ranks second-highest among players that attempt at least one shot from the post per game.
Portland Trail Blazers
Acquiring Anthony makes little sense for Portland considering the team’s hot start. Through 14 games, the Trail Blazers own the second-best record in the Western Conference at 10-4, with a dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, a bruising centre in Jusef Nurkic and key bench piece Evan Turner leading the way.
As the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Adding a player who tends to rack up a high usage rate like Anthony creates an uncertain dynamic that could hinder the Trail Blazers’ chemistry, a cohesiveness that’s been developed by a core group who have played together for a few seasons now.
Surprisingly, this isn’t that far-fetched of a destination for Anthony.
Although the 76ers just traded for Jimmy Butler — who along with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons figure to dominate the ball for Philadelphia — having Anthony come off the bench would be enticing.
Philadelphia’s second unit comprised of Mike Muscala, Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz, Landry Shamet and Amir Johnson doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents. While Anthony isn’t nearly the player he once was, having him come off the bench in favour of a current 76ers reserve appears to be an upgrade, at least on paper.
New Orleans Pelicans
The fit here doesn’t make much sense, considering the Pelicans play at one of the fastest paces in the league. Anthony tends to thrive when the game slows down and he’s able to operate out of isolation or the post, so this move likely isn’t happening. Anthony doesn’t help improve any of the team’s strengths so this landing spot feels unlikely, unless New Orleans is simply looking to increase its bench depth with a veteran presence.
At this point, why have your legacy dragged through the mud the way Anthony’s has been of late?
As mentioned earlier, Anthony is a three-time Olympic gold medallist, was one of the league’s most prolific scorers for a decade, and you could even pose the argument that he could have served as the best player on a championship-calibre team, like in 2009, when he led the Nuggets to within two wins of the NBA Finals. With every passing game, Anthony’s most dominant days continue to become more of a distant memory. Banking on Anthony to contribute meaningful minutes feels like a stretch at this point, which is unfortunately the place we’ve come to with his career spiralling downwards.
For Anthony, walking away from the game now rather than letting your performance drop off even further could be a realistic alternative to tainting the basketball icon’s legacy.