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How Carmelo Anthony Can Rebound His Career With The Houston Rockets

Officially, Carmelo Anthony is a member of the Atlanta Hawks, who acquired him in a trade that sent their point guard, Dennis Schroder, to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That, however, might not last much longer, as his presence on the Hawks is merely a formality as the team prepares to release him into free agency. Once a free agent, Anthony is expected to sign with the Houston Rockets, and while there has been much debate about whether he could rebound from a subpar season with the Thunder if he signs in Texas, there are just as many things that could help him succeed as those that could lead to his further descent into past-his-prime status.

One thing that could work for Anthony if he joins the Rockets is the recent paradigm shift that we've seen with Mike D'Antoni's coaching. When he was in charge of the Phoenix Suns, it was all about "seven seconds or less," a simple, run-and-gun style of play that put points on the scoreboard and fans in the seats, yet didn't yield much playoff success in relation to how well those Steve Nash-led teams did in the regular season.

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With the Rockets, D'Antoni has slowed down the game pace considerably, but not at the expense of scoring – Houston was second in average points scored in the 2017-18 NBA season. More importantly, at least as far as Anthony is concerned, he's gotten a lot of mileage out of isolation plays, and anyone familiar with Melo knows that he's often lived for the isolation. Having carte blanche to run those iso plays will make Anthony a happy camper in Houston, and it might make him forget that he once had a very contentious relationship with D'Antoni back when they were both with the New York Knicks.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

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Although there's a good chance that Carmelo Anthony will again be the third offensive option if he signs with the Rockets, a good case can be made to make him second in the pecking order behind James Harden. Unlike Russell Westbrook, who's just as likely to shoot as he is to pass, and has often been described as a man obsessed with his stat line, Chris Paul has always been a passer first and a scorer second, and it won't be surprising if he ultimately relinquishes his role as second offensive option.

Regardless of how many touches he'll be getting if he signs with Houston, Melo will give the Rockets another alternative source of offense, and someone who could step up when Harden, Paul, and/or Eric Gordon are injured and/or ineffective. It was that lack of alternate options on offense (along with CP3's injury) that helped spell defeat for the Rockets in the 2018 Western Conference Finals, and the Rockets won't get that offensive punch from P.J. Tucker. Clint Capela can score, but his range is limited, and while Ryan Anderson can shoot from long range, his poor defense is the very reason why Tucker was eating into his minutes at power forward despite being way undersized. Anthony doesn't come with those issues, and it's not inconceivable to see him lead the Rockets to the Finals come June 2019.

Via Sports Illustrated

As always, the elephant in the room when it comes to Carmelo Anthony is his attitude. When he's happy, he's playing as well as his stats suggest he is, and when he's not, he's showing up in reports on trade rumors, underperforming, or putting up empty numbers as he goes through the motions. Then you've got his reputation as someone who feuds a lot with his coaches, including the aforementioned Mike D'Antoni.

Taking a look at the Rockets' lineup, there's no way that Anthony doesn't start for the team, signing with Houston will allow him to fill the gap left by Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. Naturally, he won't replace their defensive contributions, but as a starter, he'll get at least one thing he's looking for in a new NBA home – as previously noted by Bleacher Report and other publications, coming off the bench is not an option for Melo, even as he's likely in the final third of a Hall of Fame-caliber career.

If Carmelo Anthony joins the Houston Rockets, becomes the team's second scoring option, and is happy, it won't be farfetched if he averages close to 20 points per game, to add to his usual six to seven rebounds an outing. No, he won't torch the net like he did when he was in his 20s, but that's a reasonable upside projection for his 2018-19 stats as a Rocket, and good enough for one to call it a comeback season after a lackluster year in Oklahoma City.

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