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NBA Daily: Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis: Poised For Success

Both Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis are poised for success after signing with the Brooklyn Nets this summer, writes Ben Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

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In Brooklyn, the summer months have been abuzz over the recent trade of Jeremy Lin, the re-signing of Joe Harris and the official end of the franchise nightmare that saw the Nets without their own first-round pick for five seasons. Still, the offseason has been filled with low-key, savvy moves — from moving Timofey Mozgov’s albatross contract to securing the renewed efforts of Kenneth Faried for a season, all while recouping some of their lost draft selections in the process.

And yet, two of their most significant additions have largely flown under the radar thus far: Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis. On the surface, the pair of former Portland Trail Blazers are intriguing role players and little else, particularly so with their simple, short-term contracts. But given head coach Kenny Atkinson’s penchant for fast-paced offense and high-effort defense, there’s reason to be excited about their arrivals.

Shabazz Napier

After making the difficult decision to move on from Lin (and Isaiah Whitehead) in pick-garnering deals, the Nets had a clear need for a third point guard — and, all things considered, Napier is the perfect fit. While Napier has never earned the lion share of minutes at his position, the fifth-year orchestrator made the most of his career-high 20.7 minutes per game last season in Portland. Entrenched behind the superstar backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Napier averaged 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals on 37.6 percent from three-point range.

And although the Nets haven’t found overall team success with Atkinson quite yet, they’ve committed to installing a modern, three-point-focused offense. Back in 2016-17, Atkinson’s first season at the helm, the Nets tossed up 31.6 three-point attempts per game — the fourth-highest clip in the NBA — and converted on just 33.8 percent of them. The following year, those trends continued to rise on both sides with 35.7 attempts — second-most — while making them at a moderately improved rate of 35.6 percent.

Considering the contributions that the Nets’ three major point guards made to those two-year totals — Spencer Dinwiddie (1.7 attempts/35.1 percent), Jeremy Lin (4.3/37.2) and D’Angelo Russell (1.9/32.4) — Napier should have the green light whenever possible. During his rookie season with the Miami HEAT in 2014-15, Napier earned the closest amount of minutes to his average last year in Portland and made 36.4 percent of his three-pointers. So, it’s been a somewhat smaller sample size for the Massachusetts-born scorer, but there could be some unearthed potential for the Nets to mine.

In the nine games that Napier started for the Trail Blazers last season, he averaged 16.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists — including a stat-stuffing 21-point, eight-rebound, six-assist and two-block effort in a loss against the Atlanta Hawks. Beyond that, Napier tossed four or more assists on 12 occasions and made two or more three-pointers in 18 games as well.

Give Napier minutes and he’ll make the most of them, that’s for sure.

Napier, 27, joins a backcourt occupied by just Russell and Dinwiddie, but the Nets’ desire for positional flexibility could see either player shift down to shooting guard if needed. Still, being the third point guard, even with solid long distances numbers, may appear to dampen Napier’s ceiling in 2018-19, but he’s exhibited the ability to score from all over the court. From an impressive up-and-under finish past the 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic to faking former Net Quincy Acy out of his shoes, it’s apparent that Napier isn’t only a shooter.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why I chose here,” Napier said at his introductory press conference in July. “I felt like that was part of my game, positionless basketball, going up and down, getting the ball moving fast, being able to run to the corners and have somebody else handle the ball.

“I don’t need to be on the ball. I proved that when I was in Portland. I think that’s the reason why Kenny and I came to terms understanding this was a great fit for me.”

Unfortunately, it’s worth noting that the Nets have dealt with some serious injuries at the point guard position during the previous two years. Lin missed 130 games over his two short-lived seasons and Russell sat out 33 of his own following knee surgery last November. Should that type of injury bug strike Brooklyn again, they’ll have a natural replacement that fits the offensive scheme already. If the majority of Napier’s minutes come next to a playmaker like Caris LeVert — who was forced into a facilitating role after those crucial injuries in 2017-18 — then the two would form a high-energy pairing with the second unit.

And on a two-year deal worth very little against the cap, it’ll be intriguing to see how the elastic Nets deploy Napier moving forward.

Ed Davis

While Napier’s role may be undefined for now, Davis could be in line for a career year with the Nets. The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 5.3 points and 7.4 rebounds on 58.2 percent from the floor over 18.9 minutes per game. Stuck behind Jusuf Nurkic, Davis’ long-term potential was capped — just as it was for Napier — but the veteran has always been more than effective in his given role. Last season, Davis reached double-digits in rebounds on 20 occasions and topped out at 15 boards in only 26 minutes during a blowout victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Somehow, the efforts of Jarrett Allen (five), Dante Cunningham (two), Quincy Acy (one), Jahlil Okafor (one) and Timofey Mozgov (one) only combined to reach that double-digit plateau only 10 times last season — so, without a doubt, there’s a seamless, immediate role for Davis. Although Davis, 29, won’t slot in as the stretch forward the Nets have long searched for — he sports a career three-point attempt total of two — he’ll bring some much-needed fire to the Nets on the defensive end.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the Nets were fairly good at defending the three-point line last season. Although opponent three-point percentage ranked toward the bottom at 36.9, the Nets held teams to just 24.5 attempts per game, the lowest total in the entire league. With the Nets constantly trying to run shooters off the arc and toward the shot-altering presence of the aforementioned Allen, it seems obvious that another plus-defender like Davis will only benefit them.

With Portland, opponents shot 43.6 percent against Davis in 2017-18 — the best mark on the roster. Nobody on the current roster, not even Allen (46 percent), came close to matching the new arrival in that regard for Brooklyn.

Additionally, the Nets allowed a massive average of 10.4 offensive rebounds per game last season, with many of those second chances leading directly to losses. Davis snagged 28.8 percent of all defensive rebounds available to him — by far a career-high — and should shore up Brooklyn’s often leaky efforts. On the flip side, the Nets tallied just 9.7 offensive rebounds of their own last year, with only Allen totaling two or more of them per game. During his final year with the Trail Blazers, Davis grabbed 2.3 per contest to go along with a convincing 13.7 OREB% — so there’s precedent here for him to help on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Davis is a bit restricted — and his former general manager Neil Olshey said as much earlier this summer.

“As productive as Ed was, there was certainly limitations in terms of what it exposed us to defensively by an elite defensive team like New Orleans.”

Although Portland had a handful of problems against a Pelicans team that ultimately swept them from the postseason, he’s not wrong about Davis. Over 78 regular season games last year, 96.2 percent of Davis’ shots came from between 0-10 feet. Now, that doesn’t exactly fit into the modern mold for a big man, but he’ll be more than serviceable for a franchise that finished 18th in points in the paint (43.8) and 20th in three-point percentage.per game.

Either way, back in January, Lillard endorsed of Davis ahead of a potentially dangerous trade deadline.

“I’m not just saying this to say it, but it don’t get no better than Ed. That’s just the truth.”

Five months later, the franchise cornerstone followed up the news of Davis’ free agency departure with a heart-broken emoji. That’s high praise from an All-NBA player, and the Nets will hope their newfound backup can bring that same hustle and rebounding edge to the Barclays Center.

Of course, if the Nets plan on pushing toward the postseason for the first time since 2015, they’ll undoubtedly need their young core to take crucial next steps — that goes without saying. With both important, impending restricted and unrestricted free agents soaking up the spotlight in Brooklyn, Napier and Davis could reach career-bests without fanfare. In Atkinson’s three-point heavy offense, Napier fits well alongside Dinwiddie, LeVert and others organically, while Davis will address many of the Nets’ weaknesses under the rim.

As of now, the Nets may end up toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference once again — but two of their new signings have the potential to change that course swiftly in 2018-19.

Ben Nadeau is a Boston-based writer in his second year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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NBA Daily: Five Second-Rounders Looking For Rookie Season Role

Although far from guaranteed, there are five recent second-rounders who could work themselves into important roles in 2018-19.

Ben Nadeau

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After months of speculation, rumors and workouts, the NBA Draft and their respective summer leagues are finally well in the rearview mirror. With training camps up next, franchises can begin to flesh out their rotations and decide the early season fates of their newly-arrived rookies — even if their selection didn’t come with as much fanfare or hype.

And although draft day studs like Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III are nearly guaranteed to contribute immediately, much of the class’ future is still up for grabs — a statement particularly true for those that followed the first round. Whether it was a strong summer league showing or a picture-perfect landing spot, here are the five second round draftees poised to leave a mark in 2018-19.

Kostas Antetokounmpo, Dallas Mavericks
2017-18: 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds on 57.4 percent shooting

Much as been made of the youngest Antetokounmpo’s controversial decision to come out this spring, but his faith was rewarded by Dallas with the draft’s final selection. Back in June, our Spencer Davies dove into Antetokounmpo’s time at Dayton and it’s not difficult to see why the Mavericks took a swing on the raw 6-foot-11 prospect. Over four games in Las Vegas, Antetokounmpo averaged five points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on 58 percent from the floor — which, of course, is not eye-popping but could foreshadow a role moving forward.

Between Dirk Nowitzki, Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan and the ever-talented Luka Dončić, Antetokounmpo will not be called upon to carry the scoring load at any point. On a two-way deal, the Mavericks have the luxury to develop the Greek-born stopper in the G-League until he’s ready to make a difference — but for a defensive-minded Rick Carlisle, that day could come sooner rather than later. With Dwight Powell and Ray Spalding fighting for minutes at power forward, Antetokounmpo could be an option at the three, where Barnes has just Dorian Finney-Smith behind him.

For a franchise that ranked 18th in DEF RTG (107.4) last season and will strive for their first postseason berth since 2016, giving spot defensive specialist minutes to Antetokounmpo seems like a win-win partnership.

De’Anthony Melton, Houston Rockets
2016-17: 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals on 43.7 percent shooting

After missing an entire season due to an improper benefits scandal at USC, Melton serendipitously fell to the Rockets way down at No. 46 overall. At 6-foot-3, Melton has a shot to contribute on both ends immediately as an above-average defender and a microwavable scorer. During his Las Vegas debut, Melton tallied 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, four assists and a summer league-leading three steals across five contests — albeit at an improvable 38 percent from the floor. As a tenacious playmaker, Melton should get ample opportunity to impress with a franchise looking to avenge their brutal Western Conference Finals defeat last spring.

On top of learning from one of the best point guards in league history, there also happens to be little competition for Melton in the rotation. In July, the Rockets signed Michael Carter-Williams, a former Rookie of the Year winner that averaged just 4.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists in 52 games for Charlotte in 2017-18 — and, well, that’s it. For a three-point bombing franchise like Houston, neither guard fits particularly well in that regard, but Melton’s 28.4 percent clip in one season as an 18-year-old still projects better than Carter-Williams’ 25 percent mark over five years.

Chris Paul missed 24 regular season games last year, but the Rockets are still willing to head into training camp with a second-round rookie and Carter-Williams holding down the backup point guard slot — that alone says far more about Houston’s faith in Melton than anything else.

Élie Okobo, Phoenix Suns
2017-18: 12.9 points, 4.8 assists on 39.4 percent from three

Outside of Džanan Musa and the aforementioned Dončić, the Phoenix Suns’ Élie Okobo entered draft night as the most promising overseas prospect in the bunch. Okobo, a 6-foot-2 Frenchman, could feasibly become the Suns’ franchise point guard by season’s end. The playmaking 20-year-old has just Brandon Knight ahead of him on the depth chart, a formidable NBA point guard, but one that does not fit Phoenix’s current rebuilding plan. Admittedly, his statistics won’t jump off the page just yet — 2.3 points, 3.5 assists in four summer league contests — but the potential for Okobo is certainly here.

While it’s worth noting that Okobo didn’t score in three straight contests after his impressive debut, he appears to be a suitable backcourt partner with franchise cornerstone Devin Booker. Whether he’s connecting with a backdoor cut in stride or hitting difficult running floaters, there are plenty of positives to take thus far. With a postseason appearance looking unlikely for the Suns, it’ll make sense to give Okobo the reins before long — even if they can’t move Knight’s contract worth $15.6 million in 2019-20.

Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
2017-18: N/A

Needless to say, Mitchell Robinson could be an absolute treat for the New York Knicks.

For much of the pre-draft process, it looked like Robinson was a shoo-in first rounder, with many speculating that he even received a promise from the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 overall. Once the first 30 picks came and went without Robinson — who elected to pull out of the draft combine in May — the Knicks were more than happy to scoop him up. Across five summer league contests, Robinson averaged 13 points, 10.2 rebounds and a competition-leading four blocks per game on 67 percent from the field.

On a team-friendly four-year deal worth just $1.8 million in 2021-22, Robinson already looks like a bargain. But beyond his first-round talent at a second-round price, there’s a real chance that Robinson can contribute for New York right away. Following the recent news that Joakim Noah will be stretched if the Knicks can’t find a suitable partner by training camp, that leaves exactly two centers left on the roster: Enes Kanter and Robinson. The 7-foot-1 prospect is a natural replacement for the departed Kyle O’Quinn, while the newly-minted David Fizdale should love Robinson’s shot-changing impact defensively.

Even if Robinson shuttles back-and-forth to and from Westchester throughout the season, he could still seamlessly slide into the Knicks’ rotation from day one.

Jevon Carter, Memphis Grizzlies
2017-18: 17.3 points, 6.6 assists, 3 steals on 39.3 percent from three

Earlier this week, Matt John put forth an excellent case for what should be a comeback season for the Grit-And-Grind Grizzlies — but there’s one second-rounder still currently flying under the radar. Despite a stellar final season at West Virginia, Carter dropped into Memphis’ lap and there are few that so elegantly fit the franchise’s identity without effort. As the reigning back-to-back NABC Defensive Player of the Year, Carter should split the backup point guard minutes with newcomer Shelvin Mack, if not more by season’s end.

The additions of Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson and Omri Casspi, along with renewed health from Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol, will have Memphis eying the postseason once again — but Carter will likely be a fan favorite long before then as well. During his lengthy summer league initiation, Carter pulled in 11.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals over seven games. Although his 35 percent clip from the floor could use some restraint, he won’t need to shoulder offensive responsibilities with the Grizzlies.

Carter’s hard-nosed style of play will enhance an uncharacteristically poor Memphis defense from last season, with his years of extra experience allowing the bullish ball-stopper to drop into the rotation from the get-go.

With franchises focused on their high-ranking lottery picks, many second round draftees (and their often non-guaranteed contracts) will never carve out a consistent NBA role. But from backing up future Hall of Famers to filling a hole in the rotation, it should surprise no one if Antetokounmpo, Melton, Okobo, Robinson and Carter earn some big-time opportunities in 2018-19. Last year alone, Semi Ojeleye, Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell all quickly found their niche at the professional level — so who will it be this year?

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NBA Daily: Poeltl Looking Forward To New Beginning With Spurs

Spencer Davies looks at the under-the-radar portion of the DeMar DeRozan-Kawhi Leonard trade and how Jakob Poeltl is already embracing the change.

Spencer Davies

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One month ago, a superstar-swapping trade between the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs was agreed upon.

The deal—which once again sparked a national debate about player loyalty—sent a reportedly disgruntled Kawhi Leonard to The North in exchange for Masai Ujiri’s franchise cornerstone, DeMar DeRozan.

Longtime Spur and veteran sharpshooter Danny Green was also moved to Toronto, while San Antonio acquired a protected future first-round draft pick and 22-year-old big man Jakob Poeltl.

Remember, Poeltl was an integral piece of a talented Raptor bench that produced a better net rating than their starters, as well as nearly all five-man groups in the league.

While the majority of pundits have gone back and forth about who won the trade, few have mentioned the ninth overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. Being involved in the transaction admittedly caught Poeltl “a little bit off guard.”

But entering his third year as a pro, the seven-foot Austrian is embracing the change and a brand new start with one of the most well-respected organizations in sports.

“That’s one of the things I’m most excited about, just the fact that this program has such a big history in developing players,” Poeltl told reporters in his first media appearance since the move. “I’m really excited for the process. Gonna be a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to it.”

From what he has heard from players who have been a part of the Spurs in the past and those who are currently there, it’s an unselfish group of people. They consider it a family environment.

“Everybody is just in it together,” Poeltl said. “From the very top to the very last guy on the bench or in the gym. It’s really like a great atmosphere, at least from what I’ve heard. So I’m looking forward to actually experiencing it myself.”

As soon as Poeltl got to San Antonio, he gazed at the championship banners hanging inside of the gym and quickly realized the expectations he’ll have to fulfill this season are a little higher than where he came from.

“It’s crazy, it’s different,” Poeltl said. “Obviously in Toronto, we didn’t have banners like that. Like we’re on a good way there, but this program here has some tradition to it. Over the last 20 years been a great basketball team. Obviously, you can tell by the championships and all the accomplishments.

“It’s a little bit of pressure, too. Like we’re trying to live up to that. There’s obviously a very high standard here, so we’ve gotta come in and put the work in and really show what we’ve got on the court as a team.”

Poeltl hasn’t wasted any time in immersing himself into the culture. In fact, he’s been working out at their practice facility since he arrived and feels like there’s a “natural chemistry” already with his new teammates.

In the weight room, Poeltl came across the forever face of the Spurs and future Hall-of-Fame forward, Tim Duncan. The conversation between them was short, sweet and casual. Basketball wasn’t brought up, as that will likely be saved for another time when the season approaches.

Duncan still sticks around and helps in practices from time-to-time, but he won’t be there every day. Somebody else who will be, however, is Pau Gasol, a fellow international center that Poeltl looks forward to learning from.

Though those two will be able to give veteran advice and priceless pointers, Poeltl’s most crucial teachings will come from the Spurs lead general—Gregg Popovich. Like with Duncan, on-court discussions were not the focus of their first interaction.

“We went to dinner,” Poeltl said. “We didn’t really talk too much basketball. It was more just like trying to get to know each other, like a first impression. I think there’s more than enough time for us to talk basketball and really learn what the Spurs are all about on the basketball court.

“But it was a really good conversation. Like I really enjoyed it. He’s a very down-to-earth type guy for if you think about what he’s accomplished in his career. He’s really cool.”

Once training camp comes and the dialogue does take a turn towards the hardwood, Poeltl will be all ears. As it stands now, Poeltl’s niche is the hustle guy. He picks up the scraps, corrals offensive rebounds and dives after loose balls, but don’t pigeonhole “role player” to his name. He plans on doing more in San Antonio.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Poeltl said. “I think I do a lot of the little things out there—set good screens, be in the right places, making good reads off of my teammates and making plays for my teammates at the same time. Obviously like for me, that’s my role right now and I’m really enjoying that.

“I’m working on my game every single day in practice and I’m trying to develop more offensively and defensively so I can take on more responsibilities in the future.”

Moving on from the team that drafted you to another can be difficult. Luckily, Poeltl isn’t coming alone.

“Obviously it helps to have a familiar face like a guy that I’ve played with over the last three years,” Poeltl said of DeRozan. “Like I know how he plays basketball, he knows me. I think we play well together.”

In the two years they have played together, Poeltl has noticed DeRozan fine-tune his game. Although he is first and foremost a pure scorer, his all-around offense is getting better.

DeRozan’s reads on the opposition are crisper, as are the adjustments he makes due to that. He understands when to take games over and has involved his teammates more and more with each season.

It’s no surprise that the four-time All-Star guard is coming to the Spurs with a statement to make. All he’s done since being drafted is improve and devote himself to his second home in Toronto. He hasn’t uttered one favorable comment towards the front office he feels betrayed him.

Witnessing the kind of player DeRozan is when he’s pushed, Poeltl expects we’ll see a whole other side of him unleashed this year.

“It’s a little bit scary, to be honest,” Poeltl said. “Because I know what he can do when he has a chip on his shoulder, when he gets that extra motivation. I think he’s gonna be ready.”

Poeltl doesn’t have quite that big of a score to settle with the Raptors.

He’s just ready to give his all to an organization in a blue-collar town that matches the kind of work ethic he’s had since he started playing the game.

“That’s kinda how I’ve been for my whole basketball career,” Poeltl said. “Just get the work done.”

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NBA Daily: Can an Anthony-D’Antoni Marriage Work for Houston?

Shane Rhodes lays out how the Carmelo Anthony-Mike D’Antoni pairing could work this time around in Houston.

Shane Rhodes

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It’s official: Carmelo Anthony has joined the Houston Rockets after putting pen to paper on a contract. In doing so, Anthony will join a gifted offensive team helmed by former Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

Back in 2011, when Anthony joined the New York Knicks via a blockbuster trade with the Denver Nuggets, a younger D’Antoni was in the midst of his third year with New York. While he didn’t exactly have a sterling record with the Knicks prior to the acquisition (89-129 before), things improved little upon Anthony’s arrival in the Big Apple (31-38 after). The two butted heads constantly and, after just a year (and an ultimatum forced on the Knicks by Anthony), D’Antoni was out the door; he resigned from his position and pursued work elsewhere.

Now, together once again, questions remain about how their relationship and, ultimately, their offensive styles will mesh in Houston. D’Antoni has already come out and said things will be different this time around, but nothing is so certain in the NBA; what is stopping things from going south as they did for the Knicks, who, despite a bevy of talent, just couldn’t make things work?

It’s important to understand where things went wrong in New York in order to look at where they could go wrong in Houston.

From the jump, the two weren’t exactly the best fit. Anthony wanted to play the way he had his entire career — heavy isolation, high usage basketball — while D’Antoni’s offense was spread out, predicated on ball movement, and closer to what we see in the modern offense.

Those two styles aren’t exactly conducive to the success of one another.

The Knicks finished the season 42-40, going just 13-14 in Anthony’s 27 games with the team. The two continued to be at odds with one another into the next season until, after leading the Knicks to an underwhelming 18-24 start, D’Antoni resigned. While things improved under Mike Woodson in 2012 — Anthony posted the highest usage rate of his career while the Knicks won 52 games — they quickly devolved into disaster and the Knicks, once again, found themselves in a hole that they are still trying to climb out of.

Now, on to Houston. This isn’t the same D’Antoni; he has changed and so has his offense. While ball movement still plays an integral role, D’Antoni has put much more of an emphasis on isolation plays in order to better fit the profile of his current roster.

The Rockets posted historic offensive numbers with James Harden and Chris Paul running the show, but did so unlike D’Antoni teams of the past. Gone are the days of the seven-seconds-or-less offense; the Rockets played at a pace (97.4 possessions per 48 minutes) that was middle of the pack, while their assist total came in at just 26th in the league, third worst among teams that made the postseason last year. Despite that, Houston managed to post the highest offensive rating (114.7) in the league.

While those stylistic changes should aid Anthony as he looks to rebound next season, they alone don’t make this the perfect fit for the Rockets. Anthony will never see the touches that he was once accustomed to in New York or Denver. He isn’t the same player he was five years ago, either; as his athleticism has declined, so too has Anthony’s ability to get past his defenders, leading to tougher, lower percentage shots that could sink the Rockets come the postseason.

The only thing that really holds Anthony back now is his own stubborn ignorance of those facts. He refused to adjust last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder because he still has “so much left in the tank.” Anthony posted some of the worst numbers of his career last season and, while Billy Donovan isn’t the offensive wizard that D’Antoni is, things should only get worse as Harden (36.1 percent usage rate) and Paul (24.5) dominate the ball if Anthony remains unwilling to change.

So, while his words may hold true, Anthony is no longer in a position where he needs to put the team on his back in order for it to be successful. Houston already has a well-established hierarchy, and Anthony is merely a column meant to buttress what is already in place. If he can’t come to accept that, the chance Houston is taking on him could backfire tremendously.

Still, Houston needs someone to eat the minutes vacated by the departure of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency. While he may not be able to match their defensive exploits, Anthony is still more than capable of filling their shoes, or even providing an upgrade, offensively. That potential upgrade alone could make the move a worthwhile one for the Rockets, who came just minutes from dethroning the Golden State Warriors despite the loss of Chris Paul in the Western Conference Finals.

For things to truly work out, however, Anthony must be willing to accept a change in his role, a diminished one in an offense that isn’t hurting for star power or shot takers, but one that desperately needs role players. If Anthony can adapt, he could be exactly what they need to challenge the Warriors. If not, Anthony’s arrival could blow up in D’Antoni’s face just as it did with the Knicks.

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