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NBA Trade Watch: The Pacific Division

David Yapkowitz breaks down possible trade deadline moves in the Pacific Division.

David Yapkowitz

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As we reach the end of the week, we also reach the end of our latest series here at Basketball Insiders. With the NBA’s trade deadline on the horizon, chatter has been heating up around the league. With our final installment of this series, we take a look at the Pacific Division.

Golden State Warriors (34-9)

What more needs to be said about the Warriors? They have the best record in the NBA and clearly appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league. They’ve got the best starting lineup in the NBA and one of the best benches; there really isn’t anything that this team needs.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Kevin Durant – $25,000,000(player option)
Nick Young – $5,192,000
Zaza Pachulia – $3,477,600
Kevon Looney – $1,471,382
Pat McCaw – $1,312,611(qualifying offer)

Names Worth Talking About:

Despite the Warriors’ overall dominance, there are a couple of players that could see their names come up in trade rumors. One is backup big man JaVale McGee. McGee played a key role off the bench on last season’s championship team. He came into this season looking to reprise that role. He’s seen his playing time dwindle, however, and veteran David West appears to be the backup center for now.

McGee’s name has already appeared in early trade reports. If he is moved, he’s not going to net the Warriors anything of real value in return. It will most likely be a salary dump to accommodate McGee by having him go to a team with regular minutes available for him.

The other player who might come up in trade chatter is Kevon Looney. Looney’s battled injuries since coming into the NBA, and he’s never been able to really crack the rotation. He has received rotation minutes here and there this season and he’s produced when called upon. It’s unlikely that he has a major role on this team going forward and being young enough, he could draw interest from other teams. Like McGee, a Looney trade likely doesn’t yield anything major for the Warriors.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Honestly, there isn’t anything the Warriors really need at the deadline. Provided the front office can keep this group together, they are set up to contend for championships for the next several years. If the right deal comes along that would make the Warriors even stronger, they should definitely consider it. Otherwise, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Los Angeles Clippers (20-21)

A couple months ago, the Clippers were at a bit of a crossroads. They suffered some major injuries to key starters such as Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverly, Danilo Gallinari, and Milos Teodosic. They were mired in a seven-game losing streak. There was talk abound on whether they should mail it in, trade away their veterans, and hit the reset button. They’ve started to get healthy now, however, and have played their way right back into the playoff picture.

Notable Ending Contracts:

DeAndre Jordan – $24,119,025(player option)
Austin Rivers – $12,650,000(player option)
Lou Williams – $7,000,000
Milos Teodosic – $6,300,000
Patrick Beverly – $5,027,028(non-guaranteed)

Names Worth Talking About:

When the Clippers looked as if the wheels were coming off, DeAndre Jordan’s name was being mentioned as a possible trade candidate. Our own Michael Scotto just reported that the Clippers approached the Minnesota Timberwolves about a trade centered around Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. Lou Williams is another name that has surfaced recently. Williams is having a career-year and could certainly help a few contenders.

This was a team that, when healthy, started out strong with Griffin playing like an MVP candidate. A lot of the big name trade chatter started gaining momentum when the team was floundering amidst all their injuries and looking like they might fall too far out of the playoff race.

Their front office has an interesting choice to make here. If they keep up their current play, do they stay the course and see how this team fares in the playoffs before making any changes? Or do they get some value for their guys now and start all over? As it stands, they’re only 1.5 games out of fifth place in the Western Conference.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Again, the Clippers could go one of two ways here. If they’re able to overtake a few of the teams ahead of them in the standings, they’ll probably stand pat. If that’s the case, a veteran point guard is probably their most pressing need. Patrick Beverly is out for the year, and Milos Teodosic has been in and out of the lineup due to injury. Rookie Jawun Evans has filled in admirably as a starter, but they’ll need a more seasoned player if they want to compete in the playoffs.

Then there’s the other possible direction. Maybe the Clippers don’t make a move in the standings. Maybe they drop more games and a playoff appearance starts to look bleak. If that happens, trade chatter involving Griffin, Jordan, and Williams will likely reappear. If they’re unable to make something happen record-wise in the next month or so, their biggest area of need likely becomes young players and draft picks.

Phoenix Suns (16-27)

The Suns are where many probably expected them to be. Some of their young talent is finally starting to shine through, but they aren’t really close to becoming a playoff team. They completed their big move of the year when they dealt Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks to accommodate his trade request and to open up playing time for the young guys.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Greg Monroe – $17,844,176
Alex Len – $4,187,599
Tyler Ulis – $1,312,611(non-guaranteed)

Names Worth Talking About:

There are some players on the Suns whose names will likely surface as the trade deadline gets closer. The one guy whose name is probably going to pop up quite a bit is Greg Monroe. Monroe played a big role off the Bucks bench last season, especially in the playoffs. He’s not in the rotation in Phoenix, but he can certainly still help a contending team.

The other name who might come up is Tyson Chandler. Chandler has been the starting center for the Suns for most of the year, and he’s played well for them. He may not be the player he once was, but he still provides an interior defensive and rebounding presence. He’d definitely help a contending team. He can come in and still start if need be.

Both Monroe and Chandler have fairly large contracts which might make them a bit difficult to move. It’s likely that the Suns wouldn’t be expecting much in return for either of them. If they’re able to get back any young prospects or picks, that would obviously be ideal. But since those contracts are big, they’re going to need to take back some salary as well.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Firmly out of the playoff race and headed to another lottery finish, the Suns just need to maintain course. Find a way to get their young guys as much playing time as possible. Monroe isn’t in the rotation, so if they can’t move him it doesn’t matter much. He’s an expiring contract anyway. If they can find a taker for Chandler that makes sense, they should do it.

More playing time for the younger big men such as Alex Len and Dragan Bender will likely benefit them. They’ve both shown improvement this season and would stand to benefit most if Chandler is moved. Chandler’s been a positive presence for the Suns but going forward, it’s unlikely he’s in their long-term plans. Len and Bender might not be either, but the Suns won’t know unless they try it out.

Los Angeles Lakers (14-27)

The Lakers are another team that’s right where they should be. They were never going to be a good team this year. They were always going to lose a lot of games. But they’re often times exciting while doing so. They’ve got some intriguing young talent on the team, talent that might be worth developing and worth standing by rather than chasing dreams of LeBron James or Paul George in the purple and gold.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Brook Lopez – $22,642,350
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – $17,745,894
Julius Randle – $4,149,242(qualifying offer)
Corey Brewer – $7,579,366

Names Worth Talking About:

There are a couple guys on the Lakers roster whose names have already been talked about in trade rumors. The most prominent one is probably Luol Deng. As the new front office tries to undo the mistakes of the previous regime, Deng has been on the inactive list since the first game of the season. The Lakers would love to get out from under his contract, but finding a taker is going to be incredibly difficult.

Other than that, they do have a few guys that have been mentioned in trade chatter who probably have some value around the league. Both Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have seen their names in trade rumors since the offseason. Moving either or both has been seen as a precursor to pursuing James and George in the summer. They’ve both been solid for the Lakers, however, especially Randle, who is having a stellar year despite a decrease in playing time.

Randle, in particular, is someone the Lakers will need to make a decision on soon. He is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and is likely in line for a nice payday. The Lakers have to decide if they want to be the ones to pay him or not.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

The Lakers’ biggest need is quite obvious: to ship out Deng. That’s unlikely to happen given his contract situation, so their next biggest area of need is to decide what to do with Randle. If they don’t think he’s part of the team’s future, then it’s best to trade him before the deadline and get something in return, rather than lose him for nothing in the summer when another team will inevitably pay him.

They also have to decide if it’s worth it to go all in for a couple of max contract guys this offseason. If so, they’ll need to look at potential deadline deals that will clear out some salary.

Sacramento Kings (13-28)

The bottom of the Western Conference is probably where you would have expected the Kings to be, and that’s exactly where they are. They did have a solid draft, but it’s going to take some time for that talent to yield on-court results. This is a team that’s been in the lottery forever, it seems, and so far they have nothing to show for it. This upcoming draft is looking very top-heavy so maybe the Kings will get lucky and finally hit the lottery jackpot.

Notable Ending Contracts:

Kosta Koufos – $8,393,000
Vince Carter – $8,000,000
Garrett Temple – $8,000,000

Names Worth Talking About:

The biggest name on the Kings’ roster who will certainly factor into trade rumors is George Hill. It wasn’t too long ago that Hill spoke about his disappointment with how the Kings’ season was going. He was one of the Kings’ prized offseason acquisitions, but he hasn’t panned out as initially hoped.

He’s got quite a hefty contract, so if he’s moved the Kings are going to have to take some salary back in return. He’s still a valuable player who just isn’t fitting that well with the Kings. There are plenty of teams out there, playoff contenders at that, who could use him.

Another name that’s come up is Kosta Koufos. Koufos has a bargain of a contract and is one of the Kings most productive players. He’d definitely help fortify a contending team’s second unit. Should the Kings decide to move him, it would probably be a bit easier than moving Hill. In any potential deal, the Kings should be looking at getting some prospects and/or picks that can help with the rebuild.

Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:

Other than finding a taker for Hill, if that’s what they want to do, the Kings should sit this deadline out. They need to use the remainder of the season to evaluate the guys they currently have. It’s been over a decade since the Kings were relevant, but there’s no need to rush.

If they can add any intriguing young players or picks, then, by all means, do it. But that’s all they should be looking to add.

With the trade deadline less than a month away now, look for more and more chatter to pick up. For the teams in the Pacific Division, the teams to look out for are the Clippers and Lakers. The Clippers will need to decide what path they want to take, and the Lakers will need to determine what their offseason goals will be. Those two teams are where most of the talk might come from. Look for the other teams, especially the Warriors, to stay put.

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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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