Oh God, Are The Rockets Ditching Their Formula For Success To Sign Carmelo Anthony?

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

The Rockets fell one game short of the NBA Finals.

But if not for a Chris Paul injury or a historically rough shooting stretch, they probably would have gotten there.

You know the one.

Even before coming so frustratingly close to upending the Warriors, new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said he was willing to spend big for a team that could get to the championship round.

“This is what was told to me by my experts that work here: If it’s going to take you to the Finals, then you should pay the luxury tax,” he told ESPN in October 2017. “And I totally agree. If you have to lose money to get to the Finals or win a championship, I think you do what you have to do because it’s going to come back to you.”

But in Fertitta’s first full offseason at the helm, it appears he’s already changed his tune. That, or he doesn’t think a retread of last year’s team has a chance.

The team let Trevor Ariza walk, for a one-year, $15 million deal with the Suns. 

So surely they’d bring back Luc Mbah a Moute, another defensive jackknife who was so crucial to Houston’s switching defensive scheme in 2017-18, right?

Nah.

The Rockets had their $5.3 million mid-level exception to spend on Mbah a Moute, though it would have cost extra in luxury taxes. The Clippers signed him for $4.3 million.

Ariza and Mbah a Moute are far from perfect players, but their size, length, and defensive know-how on the perimeter make them ideal for defending the Warriors, able to switch onto just about any kind of player. That defensive identity, and the brilliance of James Harden and Chris Paul, made them last year’s best regular season team. Houston had the sixth-best defensive rating in the league, according to Basketball Reference.

Now it appears the team will be replacing those wing defenders with the exact opposite player.

Melo, who was absolute trash last year, has infamously resisted his becoming a role player. If he joins the Rockets this season, he’ll be playing the role of the white flag.

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