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As the basketball world waits for news on San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard’s home for the 2018-19 season, a few other notable players may be changing cities in the meantime.
Here’s a look at the latest on Melo, as well as some updates on Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Houston Rockets jumped into the front seat for Anthony’s services:
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
Rockets lose two forwards now — including Ariza — from NBA’s best regular season team. Houston is detemined to sign Carmelo Anthony once he becomes free in OKC, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/SfHAWntNlH
That sentiment was also backed by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports:
Kevin O’Connor @KevinOConnorNBA
Interesting. NBA execs largely consider Houston the favorite for Carmelo Anthony. Also have heard Lakers, Heat, and Sixers mentioned. I bet it’ll be the Rockets though. https://t.co/hHciV6PWvx
Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report
Several folks around the league that I’ve spoken with believe the #Rockets are the favorite to ultimately land #Carmelo as a sort of replacement — at least offensively — to Trevor Ariza. https://t.co/m6eZjZXdcV
Anthony’s performance took a dive this past season, with the 15-year veteran averaging a career-low 16.2 points on 40.4 percent shooting. But it was clear the Russell Westbrook–Paul George-Melo trio didn’t mesh well on the court, as they mustered just two playoff wins and a first-round exit.
It’s possible a new home will rejuvenate Anthony in the twilight of his career.
That being said, the Rockets don’t seem like a great fit.
First, they just lost two defensive stalwarts in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza. Houston vastly improved last season largely for two reasons: the addition of point guard Chris Paul and a defensive efficiency rating that jumped from 17th to sixth. The losses will almost certainly point the Rockets’ defense in the wrong direction.
Anthony isn’t going to help much on the defensive side: Per Basketball-Reference, he has had a negative defensive box plus/minus every year he’s been in the league aside from 2011-12.
Of course, the 34-year-old’s offensive brilliance over the years more than made up for his work on the other end, but the Rockets stand to regress on defense by swapping the aforementioned departed forwards with Melo.
Second, the Rockets shoot three-pointers at a much higher clip than anyone in the league, hoisting up 42.3 per game. Their 36.2 percent field-goal rate from beyond the arc ranked in the middle of the pack.
The issue is that Anthony is more of a mid-range threat offensively than he is from downtown. Over his past four seasons, the former Syracuse star has made 35.1 percent of his three-pointers. That’s not a bad figure, but it’s hard seeing him meshing with the offensive identity of the team when he made his living inside the arc.
Of course, Anthony could rejuvenate his career under offensive guru and Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni, who has one of the best minds in the game.
On paper, though, Anthony’s best bet for individual success may be elsewhere.
Per A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, the Celtics may have some competition to retain Smart in the form of the Sacramento Kings:
A. Sherrod Blakely @ASherrodblakely
Source: After striking out on Zach Levine, the Sacramento Kings are preparing to put together an offer #Celtics Marcus Smart.
Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe grabbed some quotes from C’s head coach Brad Stevens, who heaped praise upon the 24-year-old:
Adam Himmelsbach @AdamHimmelsbach
Here’s what Brad Stevens had to say about Marcus Smart. https://t.co/DU5hYt9dvB
A July 5 report from Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald noted Smart was “hurt” that the Celtics hadn’t spoken with him about a new deal.
At the very least, one has to figure Stevens’ endorsement is a positive checkmark in favor of Smart’s return. However, the Kings could break the bank for the restricted free agent.
It will be interesting to see if the Kings go over the top and make an offer to Smart that the Celtics won’t match.
Sacramento could use a tough defender such as Smart, who could help vault a team defense that ranked fourth-last in efficiency. Smart played a big part in ensuring Boston finished first in that category.
While he is not as proficient on the other end (he has shot just 36.0 percent for his career), his defensive presence will ensure him a big deal. It’s just a matter of who covets Smart the most.
Schultz also reported Hood, a restricted free agent, could be headed elsewhere this offseason:
Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report
Sources: #Bulls / #Kings remain in play for #Cavs’ RFA Rodney Hood. Hood, 25, would provide shooting for CHI – 26th in 3-pt % – and offense for SAC – dead last in scoring last year – after Zach LaVine’s offer sheet was matched by Bulls. 3-horse race for Hood: Cavs, Kings, Bulls.
Hood’s NBA career has been up and down over his first four NBA seasons, but he will be just 26 years old when the next campaign starts.
At times, it seems like he can’t miss, like when he dropped 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting (7-of-13 on three-pointers) against the Orlando Magic in November 2017 as a member of the Utah Jazz. Two games earlier, Hood scored 30 versus the New York Knicks.
However, Hood struggled in Cleveland after a midseason trade brought him to Ohio, and he was benched for much of the postseason.
Hood spoke with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about his struggles in Cleveland, especially with the attention on his team at all times being on the brightest star in the game, LeBron James.
He won’t be playing with James next year, though, which might be a boost to the former Duke star’s ability to get his career back on track.
Ultimately, Hood is a more-than-serviceable shooting guard capable of scoring over 15 per game consistently. As he noted in the Spears article, he was enjoying a career peak before the trade, averaging 16.8 points and career-high marks in field-goal percentage (42.4 percent) and three-point rate (38.9 percent).
Perhaps a change of scenery will be beneficial, and either the aforementioned Chicago Bulls or Sacramento Kings could use him.
The Bulls perhaps make the most sense, as he could slide into small forward or play as a sixth man off the bench. The Kings have a logjam at guard, and if Sacramento goes that route, a more defensive-oriented player such as Smart may be more plausible given its struggles on that end.