Carmelo moves closer to Rockets after reported three-team trade

NBA.com Global on Jul 20, 2018 12:54 PM
Carmelo moves closer to Rockets after reported trade
FILE - DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 9: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots a free throw against the Denver Nuggets on November 9, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Bart YoungNBAE via Getty Images)

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst

Half a Banana Boat Crew is better than nothing.

Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) reported trade of Carmelo Anthony from Oklahoma City to Atlanta as part of a three-team deal also involving Philadelphia -- and which will be followed by the Hawks waiving Anthony -- obviously clears the way for Anthony to join Chris Paul in Houston, as has been rumored for weeks once it became clear OKC had to get rid of Anthony to lower what would have been a lethal luxury tax bill next year.

The deal sends guard Dennis Schroder from the Hawks, which drafted him 17th overall in 2013 and who has been Atlanta’s incumbent starter the last two seasons, to the Thunder for Anthony and a Lottery protected (1-14) 2022 first-round pick. In addition, forward Mike Muscala was re-routed from Atlanta to Philadelphia through Oklahoma City, which will receive former first-rounder Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot from Philly. The 76ers will send third-year wing Justin Anderson to Atlanta to complete the deal.

Anthony has told people for more than a week that he expects to wind up with the Rockets, according to a league source.

The Rockets have been in flux this offseason, losing defensive stalwart and team leader Trevor Ariza in free agency to Phoenix, along with Luc Mbah a Moute, who returned to the Clippers after one season in Houston. The Rockets helped stanch some of their defensive losses by signing 3 and D wing James Ennis (career 36 percent on three's) from Detroit last week.

Anthony would not help the Rockets much at the defensive end. But the 34-year-old Anthony can still score, even though his average fell to 16.2 points last season as the Thunder’s third option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

Houston’s offense doesn’t need upgrading -- the Rockets were just behind top-ranked Golden State in Offensive Rating last season (112.2), and of course, obliterated the rest of the league in three-point attempts and makes. But after Paul missed the last two games of the Western Conference finals against the Warriors, Houston’s offense bogged down at the worst possible times -- most notably the second half of Game 7, when the Rockets missed a seemingly impossible 27 consecutive three-point attempts.

Anthony isn’t a great three-point shooter by any means, but he’s still a load in the post and is still able to get to the foul line -- his last season in New York, when he was more of a primary option, he still averaged almost five free throws a game.

The Thunder’s main motivation to trade Anthony rather than use its stretch provision to get his $27.8 million off its books for next season was not just economic, though that was a key factor. OKC will save less money by trading Anthony rather than stretching him, but in doing so the Thunder will also address a major need that was clear to any who’ve watched the team the last couple of years -- an offense that falls apart whenever Westbrook is on the bench.

If OKC had just stretched Anthony, it would have had $9.6 million in dead money on its books that it couldn’t have done anything with this year. The Thunder chose instead to take on Schroder’s $15.5 million for next year.

Acquiring Schroder, who was obsolete in Atlanta once the Hawks decided to acquire the rights to rookie point guard Trae Young on Draft night, gives OKC a young veteran who can create offense for himself and others when Westbrook needs a blow. Schroder averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists last season.

But Schroder has to deal with pending legal action against him stemming from an incident last September in DeKalb County, Georgia, in which he and three other men were involved in a fight with another man, who reported suffered a torn ACL and meniscus. The charges against Schroder were recommended to be upgraded from misdemeanor to felony.

Assuming the charges are resolved before the start of the season -- a good assumption, or the Thunder would have never signed off on the deal -- OKC will upgrade its roster with a player who will provide incredible versatility as either a top-notch reserve, a player who could start alongside Westbrook or, at the worst, could be moved down the road. Schroder has three years and $46.5 million left on his deal.

Atlanta made its intentions for Schroder clear when it picked Young rather than Luka Doncic, whose rights the Hawks sent to Dallas in a Draft night deal, and traded for veteran point guard Jeremy Lin from Brooklyn earlier this month. The Hawks just wanted a first for Schroder, and got one from OKC, which wouldn’t have been able to move Anthony’s whole contract without it.

Muscala’s $5 million had to be included to make the deal work financially. He became coveted by Philadelphia after free agent Nemanja Bjelica backed out of a verbal agreement with the 76ers this week. Philly needed a stretch four who could shoot, and Muscala is a career 38 percent three-point shooter.

Anderson was a former first-rounder (21st overall in 2015) with the Mavericks whose athletic ability and work ethic have made him a team favorite both in Dallas and Philly. The rebuilding Hawks will give him a look on the wings along with Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry and first-round pick Kevin Huerter. The Hawks have been shopping veteran forward Kent Bazemore since before this year’s Draft.

SiriusXM radio host and longtime NBA reporter Mitch Lawrence was first to report the potential deal between the Thunder and Hawks.

Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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