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Dumping Anderson's contract makes off-season a win for the Rockets

Brandon Knight came back to the Rockets in the Ryan Anderson trade. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

OK I said it—if the Rockets were somehow able to unload Ryan Anderson’s contract,  the off season would be a success. At the end of the day the team added a proven scorer in Carmelo Anthony, who will take Anderson's minutes and is not lacking in confidence—regular season or playoffs. Although I still have a few concerns regarding what the Rockets gave up in this trade and what the roster looks like right now, I will stay true to my word and give credit where credit is due. Here's my take on the trade and the off season moves the team has made preparing for the upcoming season.

At first glance, the trade looks like a huge win for Houston. After courting Ryan Anderson for years and the organization saying he was the ultimate stretch 4, it all went south in a hurry. First, they had to overpay him in free agency and $21 million dollars a year is not going to be a popular move when it's a 4 year contract. If you doubt me, look no further than the Brock Osweiler contract. A year into the deal, the signs were there that he was never going to be able to live up to the billing.

Anderson is an above average 3-point shooter, but he showed a weakness in the mental aspects of the game. When his shot wasn’t falling he was quick to pass up open looks or worse than that, continue to shoot deep 3s with absolutely no confidence the shot was going in. In the playoffs, not only was he still erratic with his shot, his role as a starter was a distant memory and his defensive liabilities made him virtually impossible to keep on the floor for any length of time. In short, the writing was on the wall that Anderson would not be a member of the Rockets next season.  Of course there was always the possibility of a buyout, but I don't think that would have flown inside the Toyota Center walls.

The biggest problem I have with the trade is the fact that Houston had to part ways with their second round draft pick, De'Anthony Melton. Melton slid in the draft due to his name being linked to the NCAA recruiting scandal of a year ago, but strictly from a basketball perspective, this kid has a ton of talent and a huge upside. He quickly showed in summer league that he belongs in the NBA, and given the right situation, with hard work and a team that has patience, he could develop into an above average player in the NBA. Obviously with the talented roster that the Rockets have and the additions that the team has made, they felt like he was expendable. If giving up Melton was the price you had to pay to get rid of Anderson, then tht price was right and the deal was a no brainer.

The only other concern I have with the move is the fact that the Rockets did not recoup any cap room, as they were forced to take back veteran point guard Brandon Knight, as well as underachieving, former lottery pick Marquese Chriss. Chriss is a 6'10" big man that is known more for his attitude than his ability, as he has squandered most of the opportunities he has been given. He has let his emotions get the best of him during his time in Phoenix to the point where patience was wearing thin. Phoenix had seen enough and was ready to move on, especially after drafting Deandre Ayton.

Knight has had his moments in the league, as he has been an above average player with both the Pistons and the Bucks. Unfortunately, in Phoenix he had the double whammy of having attitude problems as well as eventually tearing his ACL, which ended his stint as a Sun. He also comes with a hefty price tag as he is making over $15 million dollars a year for the next 2 seasons, which Houston is on the hook for. So fans that had high hopes of getting salary cap flexibility in any Anderson trade, have to be content knowing that at least they unloaded his ridiculous contract and prolonged shooting slumps to free up minutes for Melo and others.

Heading into training camp, the biggest issue on the roster is defensive. Whether you want to admit it or not, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute were huge for them and will be missed. Of course they will be forever labeled by Rockets fans as failures, based on their inability to come up big at the biggest moments of the playoffs, including Game 7 against the Warriors. Fact is, they were two of the five best defenders on a team that ranked in the top handful of squads in the NBA.

Morey and his staff have added several players this off-season, but none come close to being able to defend and rotate like the two guys they lost. It remains to be seen if they will be able to maintain their status as an elite defensive team in the wake of their off season departures, as James Ennis and Michael Carter Williams are not exactly defensive stoppers by league standards.  Let's also keep in mind Carmelo Anthony has never been known for his defense or his desire to get stops, but alas, now is the time for optimism and hope across basketball, so why not dream big and expect the unexpected? Regardless, you can put it on the board for this off season, it's a "W" in my book.

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The Astros need to beat up on the lowly Rangers. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Collectively so far this season the Astros would not make for very good garbage men. Meaning they haven't been so good at taking out the trash. Swept in a series at Detroit when the Tigers were terrible, swept at Minute Maid Park by the sorry Orioles, swept in an early season series at the Rangers. Presently the Rangers are an atrocity. A nine game losing streak has them 35-62, buried deeply in last place in the American League West, 23 games behind the Astros. So the Astros need to whip up on them in this weekend's three game set, before the Astros head west for a three city road trip with stops in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

15. The number of home runs Jose Altuve has hit over his last 37 games. Multiply by four and that's a 60 homers in 148 games pace. Over those 37 games, Altuve is batting just .242. But slugging .577.

.029. Carlos Correa's batting average dating back 10 games played. One hit in his last 34 at bats. 14 strikeouts and just one walk over the stretch. That is what you call a funk. Certainly not a way to curry 300 million dollar contract offers.

The Rangers have just two 100 loss seasons in their history, their first two seasons after becoming the Rangers upon moving from Washington D.C. In 1972 the Ted Williams managed squad went 62-100, Ted quit, and the next year the Rangers finished 57-105. If the Astros sweep them this weekend, the Rangers will be on pace to lose 105 games.

It will be a decade ago this October that the Rangers came as close to winning a World Series as any team has ever come without winning the Series. In 2011 the Rangers carried a three games to two lead into game six at St. Louis. The Rangers led game six 7-5 with two on, two out, and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals' David Freese drilled a ball toward the base of the right field wall. Rangers' right fielder Nelson Cruz didn't make an error but didn't play the ball well, going back awkwardly and reaching out at the last second as if afraid of the wall. It went for a two run triple to tie the game. Two innings later Freese hit a game winning homer to force game seven.

The inning before that the Rangers again came within one strike of winning it all. A Josh Hamilton two run homer had the Rangers up 9-7 going to the bottom of the 10th. The Cards got within 9-8. With the tying run on second and two out, Rangers' Manager Ron Washington opted to intentionally walk Albert Pujols. Albert was still a tremendous player in 2011 (his last with the Redbirds), but he was not better than Lance Berkman that season, definitely not against right-handed pitching. Walking Pujols brought up Berkman to face right-hander Scott Feldman (a matchup of former Astro and future Astro). Berkman lined a two-two pitch to center field tying the game 9-9, ahead of Freese's 11th inning walk-off homer. One of the most incredible games in World Series history.

NCAA

Quite the story hitting that Texas and Oklahoma may be plotting to bolt the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. That neither UT, OU, nor the SEC denied it has smoke billowing. The Sooners have won the last six Big 12 football championships. The Longhorns last won in 2009. Oklahoma St., Kansas St., Baylor, TCU, all have more recently won at least a share of the conference title. An SEC UT could be looking at being in a division with Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. UT marketing folks should be exploring a huge sponsorship deal with 7-Eleven. You know, Big Gulp. But as usual, follow the money.

The week ahead…

Wednesday: The Texans open training camp! Wait. Delete the exclamation point. Whither Deshaun Watson?

Thursday: The NBA Draft. Unless the Rockets pull off a thunderbolt of a trade to move up to number one and select Cade Cunningham, the winds of opinion are blowing in the direction of the Rockets taking wing Jalen Green second overall pick. That would be fine. Green is generally considered the most potential-laden explosive scorer on the board. The Rockets can use just about everything, a premium wing scorer would be excellent.

Friday: The MLB trade deadline. Does James Click bolster the Astros' shaky bullpen. The Astros have also been linked to Marlins' center fielder Starling Marte. Growing from his wretched start Myles Straw has been plenty acceptable. Free agent-to-be Marte would be a notable upgrade.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. First big beat the deadline win goes to the Rays. 41-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz still mashes. Simple frame of reference: he's been notably better than Yordan Alvarez this year.

2. The delayed by a year 2020 Summer Olympics are underway. Any interest at all?

3. Baseball's greatest Cruzes: Bronze-Jose Jr. Silver-Nelson Gold-Jose Sr.

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