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