A spot in the starting line-up has always been important to Carmelo Anthony, but for the first time in his NBA career, a bench role may be unavoidable.
On Monday, Anthony officially signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal with the Houston Rockets to complete a move that had been weeks in the making.
What was somewhat surprising, however, was the report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Rockets are “expected to bring Anthony off the bench” this season. Wojnarowski later clarified Anthony “will compete for a starting spot in training camp, but ultimately could come off the bench”.
Bringing Anthony off the bench actually makes complete sense for Houston, but it would be a surprise if the 10-time All-Star accepts that role willingly. In his lone year with Oklahoma City Thunder this past season, Anthony consistently made it clear he would not sacrifice his starting spot.
Now 34, Anthony is no longer the superstar he once was as his production and efficiency continue to decline. This past season, he finished with career-lows in points (16.2), assists (1.3) and field goal percentage (40.4), while being a minus defender on the other end of the floor.
Anthony’s 3-point shooting – 35.7 on 6.1 attempts per game last season – is average, but in Houston’s offence with James Harden and Chris Paul feeding him the ball, he should get more open looks on the perimeter.
If he can’t hold up defensively though, that robs the Rockets of their versatility and switchability, especially against the Golden State Warriors.
So while Anthony may be okay with coming off the bench now, especially alongside a player of Eric Gordon’s stature, it’s hard to imagine him being fine with finishing games on the bench as well.
“I don’t know, and that’s something that we’ll have to work out,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told USA Today Sports of Anthony’s role. “All I know is that we’ll try different combos – pre-season, early season, and the good thing is that with analytics and with gut feelings and coaches and players, we’ll figure out what is the best way to play.
“And again, if everybody is on board, then it’ll be, ‘Hey, this is where we’re the best. This is how we can win the championship.’ I don’t know yet, but we’ll make sure we get it right as good as we can.”
Know more about Sport360 Application