NBA

Reports: Melo’s time in Houston “will soon be ending”

According to New York Times NBA reporter Marc Stein, Houston Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony has been informed that his brief stint with the Rockets "will soon be ending." This prediction comes after Anthony was listed as “out” on the Rockets’ injury report for the game tonight against the Indiana Pacers.

Despite this report, Rockets GM Daryl Morey talked to the media, claimed that there is nothing wrong, and stated that everything being spread is just rumors.

“He’s sick tonight and that’s pretty much the update,” Morey said. “One of the reasons why I’m here besides being 10 games in [the season] about, I think there is just a lot of unfair, you know, rumors and everything going around about him. He’s been great with us. As coach said yesterday, he’s been- his approach has been great, he’s accepted every role coach has given him, starting, off the bench, whatever it has been. Look, we’re struggling as a team and it’s my job, it’s coach’s job to figure out to figure this thing out.”

Anthony, in 10 games played this season for the Rockets, has averaged 13.4 points per game with 5.4 rebounds per game and 0.5 assists on average. The 15-year veteran started the season on the bench and worked his way up to the starting rotation alongside point guard Chris Paul and shooting guard James Harden.

Morey was asked about his expectation of Anthony’s role in the starting rotation when he returns from the injury report.

“Yeah,” Morey said. “I would expect Carmelo [Anthony] to be playing when he is healthy.”

In another report on Twitter from Stein about the situation he wrote, “The Rockets have denied they are waiving Carmelo Anthony, but two sources close to the situation say Anthony has been informed that his brief time with the team will soon be ending.”

If Anthony does actually get waived or traded, there are some scenarios that would be plausible to fill the space. For one thing, it would open up the three spot in the starting rotation. With that, you have a few options, one of which includes trading Melo to the Phoenix Suns and getting Trevor Ariza to fill that spot to bring back some key chemistry from last season. If that scenario does not come to fruition, then you can simply choose between Michael Carter Williams, James Ennis III, Gerald Green, or PJ Tucker to fill in the three spot until you sign someone from the free agent list or trade for a piece.

Whatever the result of this whole Melo situation, the Rockets are in a tight position with injuries, a lack of offensive production compared to last season, and a team with a sense of confusion for some of its top players on the roster.

*Stats courtesy of nba.com/rockets

*Daryl Morey quotes courtesy of Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) Twitter video

Jimmy Butler to the Sixers

The 2018-19 NBA Season is still early, but it looks like we have our first major story that will impact the league.

After 13 games into the 2018-19 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have traded their disgruntled star, Jimmy Butler, along with former 1st round pick Justin Patton to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for rotational forwards Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and a 2022 1st round pick.

Butler, who led the 4-9 T-Wolves with 21.3 points per game, along with 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game, will join a young, but already proven Eastern Conference contender in Philadelphia. The 76’ers, who are led by the young, exciting frontcourt of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, are currently 3rd in the conference with an 8-5 record.

The Timberwolves on the other hand, now have a clear direction to shift their focus back to their young stars Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, who reportedly (and publicly) had their on-court issues with Butler during the 2017-18 season, as well as the beginning of this season.

The situation with Butler, Wiggins, and Towns had gotten so bad for the T-Wolves that it was reported Butler had asked to be traded during the beginning of the 2018-19 season. Butler held out for most of the team’s training camp and even started a rift with the team after a team scrimmage in practice.

Another team affected by this trade is the Houston Rockets, who expressed heavy interest in the veteran forward Butler, and were reportedly willing to trade four future first-round draft picks.

Butler, a Houston native, grew up in a toxic environment from the beginning of his childhood. Butler's father abandoned him when he was an infant and he was kicked out of his home by his mother at the age of 13.

Butler was able to channel his rough beginnings by becoming a star player for Tomball High School from 2003-2007. He also played a season at Tyler Junior College before transferring to Marquette in 2008.

While the Rockets did miss out on their chance to land Butler in a trade, the star forward’s current contract has him as an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

For now, the 76er’s have a major chance to contend in an Eastern Conference that seems up for grabs.

October NBA Storylines

Up until last year, the NBA season normally tipped off at the end of October.

Then superstars like LeBron James cried for more rest and less back-to-back games, so, fortunately for us NBA fans, we are now a solid two weeks into the season. If you’ve been distracted by football or were one of the few people to watch the World Series, sure, you only missed two weeks of the NBA season. However, we’re talking about the most dramatic league in all of sports, so if you’re behind, you have ALREADY MISSED TWO WEEKS OF THE NBA SEASON! Allow me to express my thoughts, concerns, and summaries of my favorite storylines (in no order) that have already occurred in literally just 14 days.

Jimmy Butler Trade Talks

I am not one to necessarily buy into trade rumors, because most of the time they either don’t end up happening or take a significant amount of time for the trigger to finally be pulled. Then last year, Kyrie Irving was traded almost immediately after reports came out that he requested to move teams, and Eric Bledsoe was dealt with the Bucks less than a month after tweeting “I don't wanna be here.” It’s a new age in basketball and certainly a player’s league. Mix Butler’s trade request with the hometown Houston Rockets at the top of the mix, and you’ve got me bought into the most intriguing story of the year so far. Will, the Rockets, give up four first-round draft picks for him? Will Butler commit to signing with Houston long-term instead of coming on a rental? Is Eric Gordon part of this deal? Either way, Daryl Morey has a short leash, and if this team keeps struggling, he’s going to make this deal happen one way or the other.

Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo

Less than one week into the season, on LeBron James’ first home game, on primetime television, we received our first fight of the year. These two guards have been going at it for ten years now, and they each finally got some licks in. A few thoughts on this mini Saturday Night rumble:

- What in the world was going on in Brandon Ingram’s head?

- Chris Paul has a ridiculous amount of patience. 99% of the male population is doing much more after being spit on than poking that person in the face. He should’ve swung on the spot.

- Both players landed blows. It was a decent and fun fight that was obviously broken up quickly.

- Really, what in the world was going on in Brandon Ingram’s head?

Ingram was suspended for four games, Rondo for three, and Paul for two. These amounts were low in comparison to past similar altercations, and I love that. The NBA needs a little more toughness back in the league.

The Offense Explosion

We all know the game of basketball is constantly evolving, and this is the era of analytics. We are seeing more three-pointers attempted than ever, and it will continue to rise every year. The NBA League average for points scored per game so far is six points higher than last year and the highest it’s been since the 1970-71 season. If you’re a bettor, take the over until Vegas catches up. Here are some mind-blowing scores that have already happened in the first two weeks of the season:

- October 19th: New Orleans Pelicans 149, Sacramento Kings 129

- October 20th: Dallas Mavericks 140, Minnesota Timberwolves 136

- October 22nd: San Antonio Spurs 143, Los Angeles Lakers 142

- October 24th: Golden State Warriors 144, Washington Wizards 122

- October 29th: Golden State Warriors 149, Chicago Bulls 124

You can take these final scores whatever way you’d like - higher efficiency, continued use of analytics, lack of defense, etc. The bottom line is that last season, a team scored 140 points in a game a total of 13 times. This year, it’s already happened six times before the calendar hits November.

Klay Thompson’s Record-Setting Night

Speaking of offense, Klay Thompson got hot. On October 29th, the sharpshooter broke his teammates’ record with 14 threes made in a game. Yes, 14 threes off 24 attempts for 58%. He scored 52 points on the night in only 27 minutes. That’s absurd. Before this night, he was shooting 13.8% on 5-36 from beyond the arc. After this one night of 14-24, he is now shooting 31.7% on the season. It’s safe to say that he is no longer in a slump. And my favorite stat of the entire night, which is by far the number one reason why he will never choose to be the number one guy somewhere: he dribbled the ball NINE total times!

Tyronn Lue – First Coach Fired

After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, the Cavaliers finished the following season 19-63. Did Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers’ front office expect something different this time around? Yes, the Cavs are off to a 0-6 start, but why not just let him go before the season even started? I truly want to know if he failed to meet expectations in their eyes. However, hey, at least it happened only six games in. He would’ve been on his way to tarnishing his 128-83 record, Finals Championship, and appearances in the Finals each of his three years coaching. Technically, you could say he dodged a bullet.

Rockets 2015-16 Deja Vu?

Does anybody else feel this vibe so far? The Houston Rockets are off to an awful 1-5 start, which is their worst since the 2015-16 season. Houston is fresh off a Western Conference Finals appearance loss to the Golden State Warriors, the same situation as in their 2015-16 season. The Golden State Warriors are off to a ridiculous start with their leader, Stephen Curry, looking as if he is trying to match his unanimous MVP year, which occurred in the 2015-16 season. The Rockets’ entire identity and the theme this year is to “Run It Back,” which clearly implies bringing back essentially the same team. However, Daryl Morey’s leash will always be short, and if the losing continues, he will do whatever it takes to get Jimmy Butler. This is pretty similar to when he fired Kevin McHale after starting the year 4-7 in, that’s right, the 2015-16 season.

However, wait, there’s more

All that so far in 14 days. That goes without mentioning the new-look Lakers, the Milwaukee Bucks starting out 7-0, Blake Griffin looking like a point guard and dropping 50 points in Detroit, Kawhi Leonard looking like his old normal self up in Canada, Joel Embiid continuing to troll whoever gets in front of him, and much more. This is the most entertaining league in all of sports.

If only we didn’t already know who’s going to win the championship…

All stats via Basketball-Reference.com & NBA.com

Rockets are off to a slow start as is Melo

While the Houston Rockets are off to a slow start and seemingly so is their big free agent acquisition Carmelo Anthony.

Much has been made about how much he has left in the tank and the impact he would have on the Rockets. The slow start to the season has many believing the 10-time all-star is on the decline.

After starting 1,054 straight NBA games, one has to wonder how much coming off the bench is affecting

him mentally and in his approach to the game. Following the game, one loss to the Pelicans Melo himself called his new bench role “challenging.” Mike D’Antoni, when asked in an interview about Melo new role, said it gave them, “the best chance to win.”

Carmelo in his six games with Houston is averaging 13.2 PPG 5.5 REBS while shooting only 37% from the field and a respectable 34.3% from downtown. Stats via Basketball-Reference. Because of injuries to starting Sf James Ennis and James Harden, the Rockets decided to go with Melo in the starting lineup.

Since entering the starting lineup, Melo production has gone up over the last three games he’s averaging 18PPG 4.3 REBS shooting a much better 40% from the field and 45% from three. It’s unclear whether Melo will stay in the starting lineup when the team gets healthier, but it’s clear he’s more comfortable in a starting role.

Does he fit?

All hasn’t been bad Melo still garners a lot of attention when he’s on the floor. Well known for his scoring prowess throughout his career, he still is respected by opponents giving the Rockets the spacing they want when he’s out on the court. Melo from day one has meshed well in Houston his professionalism, veteran leadership, personality, and friendship to Star PG Chris Paul has been the perfect fit. Melo at this stage of his career seems to be at peace and accepting of his role on the Rockets.

While it’s obvious that Melo is not the prolific scorer he’s been for the better part of his career. The advanced stats suggest everything is ok, he’s just in an early-season shooting slump as the majority of his shots are coming in the flow of the Rockets offense. It’s to early to tell how much of an impact Melo will have for the Houston Rockets. One thing is for sure the Rockets need him, they are thin at the forward position and will continue to give him every opportunity to break out of his early-season slump.

SOURCE: PRO BASKETBALL REFERENCE / ESPN.COM

Reeling Rockets Can’t Find Shooting Touch

James Harden missed his second game in a row with a grade-1 plus hamstring strain, leaving Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Clint Capela to shoulder the burden for the Rockets. The defense has been a major issue with this team, leaving the Rockets “going back to the drawing board,” according to Chris Paul.

Tonight, they found themselves in Toyota Center against Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and the 4-2 Portland Trailblazers. It was the last game at the Toyota Center before a five-game road trip. The Rockets entered as a team with something to prove, coming off of a three-game losing streak. Portland was on the back-end of their back-to-back and was playing their fourth game in six days, while Houston was coming from three days’ off since their last match.

The first quarter started very sluggishly on offense, with the Rockets shooting just 5 of 27 for 19% via NBA.com and also an abysmal 1 of 10 behind the arc. Nobody could get in a rhythm, whether it was a blown layup or a brick on the wide-open 3. However, the defense came to play after having three days off; the team came together and held the Blazers to 19 points, shooting less than 38 percent.

In the second quarter, the Rockets came out more aggressively, sprinting out on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 28. Melo woke up late in the quarter with a crossover, leading to a dunk. Immediately after, he grabbed a steal and made an outlet to Eric Gordon for a three. The excitement was short-lived because when the Rockets stopped capitalizing on defensive efforts, the Blazers went on a 23 - 8 run to finish the half.

The second half produced many of the same problems: while the Rockets were struggling to score, Portland was starting to pull away. Eric Gordon received his fifth foul in the 3rd quarter, while Lillard and Nurcic had over 20 points each entering the fourth. The Rockets would add some spark in the fourth with role players like Gary Clark, getting 11 points and kicking off a 13-2 run to get the Rockets as close as 95-79 with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

Capela added to his double-double, and he finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds defensively, adding three blocks. However, the Blazers would not break as they closed out any hope for a comeback, going on a 9 –6 run to end the game. The Houston Rockets dropped their fourth game in a row: their third at home. While the defense stepped up enough to put them in a position to win, the offense couldn’t take advantage, shooting 32 percent from the field and 23 percent from three. All stats via NBA.com.

Rockets Lose to the Clippers, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

The Houston Rockets faced a familiar foe in the Los Angeles Clippers and did not get the result that they so badly wanted.

The Rockets came out strong in the first quarter and rode the hot hand of Carmelo Anthony as he came out striking from deep, helping the Rockets out with 11 of their 30 first quarter points. Surprisingly, Michael Carter-Williams also came out hot with his best quarter of the season with seven early points.

Chris Paul made his return from the suspension he was handed after the debacle against the Lakers. His shooting touch, however, looked like he had missed the last few games due to the suspension. In the first half, Paul was 1-for-7 from the field and a -10 overall in the first half. The thing the Rockets have to be upset about the most with themselves is that the only Rocket that was in the positive for the +/- was Gerald Green, and he was only a +2. This math is a recipe for disaster for any team when practically the entire team is not producing on the court.

Another alarming feature in this game were the fouls. It seemed inconspicuous in the preseason when the refs were trying to implement the freedom of movement that was a point of emphasis this year. Well, the Rockets have yet to adjust to this situation; the entire squad was dealing with foul trouble throughout the entire game. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni even had to address fouls after the game when he acknowledged that the Rockets need to change the way they play defense. The switching defense has not been working at all this season: just look at the point totals or the 1-4 overall record.

If it isn’t obvious by now, the Rockets need a change. I don’t know if that means finding a way to get the Jimmy Butler trade off the 2-yard line and signed, sealed, and delivered. A big problem the Rockets are also having would be the conundrum that is Michael Carter-Williams. The guy has never shot better than 27% from the 3-point line in his career, and that is way below the NBA league average. Carter-Williams has not fit in with what the Rockets wanted him to do, and it may already be time for a change. There are plenty of free agents out there that can help give this team a lift. They need to go find the next Gerald Green that can ignite this team and hopefully right this ship before it gets too bad this season. The Rockets play the Trail Blazers on Tuesday at 7:00 pm. They have time to correct some errors, but these errors need to be fixed yesterday!

Source: NBA.com/stats

Chance Cox’s Week 2 NBA Power Rankings

The NBA Power Rankings are here! See where your team ranks against the entire NBA.

Come back every Monday to see how the powers shift throughout the season. Below I list for you my rankings. Feel free to comment your thoughts on my list as I go through team of the week, player of the week, biggest jump/fall in my rankings, and who will make the biggest jump/fall leading into next week's rankings.

EAST Team of Week: Toronto Raptors (4-0)

WEST Team of Week: Denver Nuggets (3-0)

Player of the Week: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets): Averaging 26.3ppg, 10.3rpg, 7.3apg, 1.7spg, and 1.0bpg, while helping the Denver Nuggets start the season 3-0. It is their first perfect start in as many games since the 2009-2010 NBA season. He shot .632 from the field and .500 from 3-point. land this week. He became the first player EVER to record a 30 point triple double on 11 or fewer field goal attempts. Jokic joins the great Wilt Chamberlain as the only two players in NBA history to post a 30 point triple double while going perfect from the field. Wow! How could I not choose “The Joker Jokic” for Player of the Week honors? I mean, he has lead his team to a very early 1st place spot in an extremely stout Western conference.

Biggest Jump This Week: New Orleans Pelicans (+14)

Biggest Fall This Week: Oklahoma City Thunder (-11)

Team to Make Biggest Jump in Week 3: Los Angeles Lakers (@PHX, vs. DEN, @SAS)

Team to Take Biggest Fall in Week 3: Portland Trail Blazers (vs. WAS, @ORL, @MIA)

30. Sacramento Kings (Preseason 29)

Current record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 13th

Team Player of the Week: De’Aaron Fox- 20.3ppg, 7.7apg, 5.0rpg, 1.3 spg

29. Chicago Bulls (Preseason 27)

Current Record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 15th

Team Player of the Week: Zach Lavine- 32.3ppg, 2.7apg, 3.7rpg, 1.3bpg

28. Atlanta Hawks (Preseason 30)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 11th

Team Player of the Week: Trae Young- 23.0ppg, 8.3apg, 3.3rpg

27. New York Knicks (Preseason 24)

Current Record: 1-3

Standing in Conference: 13th

Team Player of the Week: Tim Hardaway Jr.- 27.0ppg, 2.8apg, 3.3rpg, 1.5 spg

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (Preseason 21)

Current Record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 14th

Team Player of the Week: Kevin Love- 20.7ppg, 4.0apg, 14.3rpg

25. Orlando Magic (Preseason 28)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 6th

Team Player of the Week: Nikola Vucevic- 18.8ppg, 5.3apg, 10.3rpg, 1.5spg, 1.0bpg

24. Phoenix Suns (Preseason 26)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 11th

Team Player of the Week: Devin Booker- 29.3ppg, 6.7apg, 3.7rpg, 1.0spg

23. Memphis Grizzlies (Preseason 25)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 5th

Team Player of the Week: Mike Conley- 16.7ppg, 6.0apg, 4.3rpg, 1.3spg

22. Dallas Mavericks (Preseason 23)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 7th

Team Player of the Week: Luka Doncic- 18.3ppg, 4.3apg, 5.7rpg, 1.0spg

21. Brooklyn Nets (Preseason 22)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 10th

Team Player of the Week: Caris LeVert- 24.7ppg, 4.0apg, 4.7rpg, 1.0spg

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (Preseason 14)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 9th

Team Player of the Week: Jimmy Butler- 25.3ppg, 3.0apg, 5.7rpg, 3.0spg, 1.3bpg

  1. Detroit Pistons (Preseason 20)

Current Record: 2-0

Standing in Conference: 3rd

Team Player of the Week: Blake Griffin- 29.5ppg, 5.5apg, 10.0rpg,

  1. Washington Wizards (Preseason 15)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 12th

Team Player of the Week: John Wall- 22.3ppg, 8.0apg, 3.7rpg, 2.0spg, 1.7bpg

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (Preseason 6)

Current Record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 15th

Team Player of the Week: Paul George- 25.3ppg, 3.7apg, 5.3rpg, 3.0spg

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (Preseason 8)

Current record: 0-3

Standing in Conference: 14th

Team Player of the Week: LeBron James- 27.3ppg, 8.3apg, 8.3rpg, 1.3spg

  1. Miami Heat (Preseason 16)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 9th

Team Player of the Week: Rodney McGruder- 15.7ppg, 3.7apg, 7.0rpg, 1.0bpg

  1. Charlotte Hornets (Preseason 17)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 5th

Team Player of the Week: Kemba Walker- 33.0ppg, 5.3apg, 3.5rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Los Angeles Clippers (Preseason 18)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 6th

Team Player of the Week: Tobias Harris- 22.7ppg, 2.0apg, 8.0rpg, 1.3bpg

  1. San Antonio Spurs (Preseason 9)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 8th

Team Player of the Week: DeMar DeRozan- 29.3ppg, 9.0apg, 5.0rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Portland Trail Blazers (Preseason 12)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 4th

Team Player of the Week: Damian Lillard- 28.7ppg, 7.0apg, 5.3rpg

  1. Indiana Pacers (Preseason 13)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 7th

Team Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo- 21.5ppg, 3.0apg, 6.0rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Houston Rockets (Preseason 2)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 12th

Team Player of the Week: James Harden- 28.3ppg, 9.7apg, 6.7rpg, 2.3spg

  1. Utah Jazz (Preseason 7)

Current Record: 1-2

Standing in Conference: 10th

Team Player of the Week: Joe Ingles- 19.3ppg, 5.0apg, 4.3rpg, 2.7spg

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (Preseason 5)

Current Record: 2-1

Standing in Conference: 4th

Team Player of the Week: Joel Embiid- 28.3ppg, 2.7apg, 10.7rpg, 2.0bpg

  1. Milwaukee Bucks (Preseason 11)

Current Record: 3-0

Standing in Conference: 2nd

Team Player of the Week: Giannis Antetokounmpo- 27.3ppg, 5.7apg, 16.0rpg, 1.3bpg

  1. New Orleans Pelicans (Preseason 19)

Current Record: 2-0

Standing in Conference: 2nd

Team Player of the Week: Anthony Davis- 28.5ppg, 7.0apg, 13.0rpg, 2.5spg, 2.5bpg

  1. Denver Nuggets (Preseason 10)

Current Record: 3-0

Standing in Conference: 1st

Team Player of the Week: Nikola Jokic- 26.3ppg, 7.3apg, 10.3rpg, 1.7spg

  1. Boston Celtics (Preseason 3)

Current Record: 2-2

Standing in Conference: 8th

Team Player of the Week: Jayson Tatum- 17.5ppg, 2.3apg, 10.5rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Toronto Raptors (Preseason 4)

Current Record: 4-0

Standing in Conference: 1st

Team Player of the Week: Kyle Lowry- 21.5ppg, 10.0apg, 3.0rpg, 1.0spg

  1. Golden State Warriors (Preseason 1)

Current Record: 3-1

Standing in Conference: 3rd

Team Player of the Week: Stephen Curry- 30.5ppg, 7.8apg, 5.0rpg, 1.2spg

NBA Power Rankings will be released every Monday during this season. If you have a problem with the rankings, or have a question or comment for Chance Cox, please send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.

Email: chancecox98@yahoo.com

@ChanceCoxHP on Twitter

*All statistics from theScore app

Houston Rockets Making Major Push For All-Star Jimmy Butler

Could the Rockets be in talks to bring another star to Houston?

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets have offered four future first-round picks in exchange for Butler in their most recent trade offer.

Yes.

Four first-round picks…

*inserts Shannon Sharpe “woah” gif*

Houston is most likely to offer their unprotected first-round picks in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025, to comply with the League’s 7-year rule which allows a team to trade up to 4 first-round draft picks, but those picks have to be given every other year. This offer could really help the Timberwolves’ future alongside their two other young stars: Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Through four games this season, Butler has averaged 24.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while going 42.9 percent from 3-point land.

Though Rocket fans would like to add Jimmy Buckets today, they may have to wait a bit longer. The Rockets would have to wait until October 31st to complete a deal so they could send Brandon Knight, who was acquired almost two months ago, to the Timberwolves for cap reasons. If the Houston Rockets somehow pull off a deal without giving up a key rotation player from their team (aka Eric Gordon or PJ Tucker) they win this trade 100%. Jimmy Butler is a Top 15 player in the NBA. High first-round draft choices aren’t guaranteed to give you anything. Butler is a proven star in this league, so you pull the trigger now.

The last four first-round picks for the Houston Rockets have been Sam Dekker, Clint Capela, Jeremy Lamb, and Royce White.

Yes, the Royce White who was planning on taking a train to every away game during his NBA career.

You would trade those picks away for Jimmy Butler in a heartbeat.

I know it seems like a ton to give up for a player who may walk in eight months. Maybe not...this team is set to win now. The only thing stopping them is that one team in the Bay. I think adding Jimmy Butler is the equivalent to the Warriors adding Boogie Cousins. So, would you trade four first-round picks for a championship? Who says no? Let’s run it back...

*All statistics from theScore app

James Harden to Miss the Next Few Games

The Houston Rockets have faced a multitude of obstacles this year as they look to get back to the Western Conference Finals.

The Rockets have lost Chris Paul to a 2-game suspension for being spat on. The Rockets then lost their starting wing in James Ennis to a right hamstring strain and now, they are dealing with the league MVP having a hamstring injury. The Rockets have been dealing with injuries from a multitude of their players as they only had nine guys that were suited up to play in last night’s game against the Jazz.

James Harden has been the heart and the soul of this franchise ever since Daryl Morey worked his magic and found a way to steal him from the Thunder. In his tenure as a Rocket, James has prided himself as being a durable player. His track record shows it as well; the most games he has ever missed in a season is 10 games (and that was his MVP season.) It is crazy to think about how durable James is as his game is really built around looking for contact and trying to get easy points.

Now having to think about how the Rockets can handle what life will be like without the league’s MVP, they will need to continue to have a next-man-up mentality and find a way to have role players step up. It is asking a lot to have guys like Michael Carter-Williams, Carmelo Anthony, and Eric Gordon replace Harden’s contributions. Michael Carter-Williams has been averaging 4.8 points per game on 35% shooting from the field. Carmelo Anthony, in his 15th year, is struggling to find his shot from the three point line, shooting 26%. Eric Gordon is shooting poorly from everywhere on the court, shooting 35% from the field and 24% from three point line. These guys have got to play better in general for our Rockets to have any chance this season.

The Rockets could really use some health right about now as they have some talent that the fans would love to see out on the court. Brandon Knight is probably the best back-up point guard that this team has had in the Chris Paul-James Harden era. Marquese Chriss was another huge trade piece for this team with his youth and his upside to be the backup to Clint Capela this year. The Rockets have the talent on this team, they just need to find a way to get healthy in order to reach the goal the team and the players have set for themselves, which is nothing less than a championship.

*Source: NBA.com/stat

Rockets Fall Late to the Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Houston Rockets by a final score of 115-112.

The Rockets were without their All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who is currently serving a two-game suspension due to his fisticuffs with Lakers’ point guard, Rajon Rondo, the night prior. The suspension could not have come at a worse time because the Rockets so desperately missed Paul’s playmaking and scoring abilities. The Rockets were looking to sweep the Los Angeles road trip and win their first back-to-back games of the season. However, the odds were not in their favor.

The Good

The reigning MVP, James Harden, looked the part last night. He had a game-high 31 points and 14 assists. Harden was focused in every aspect of the game, even making a few plays on the defensive end. Eric Gordon seemed to have found his shooting rhythm, shooting 5 of 8 from the perimeter.

The Bad

Carmelo Anthony has yet to find his rhythm in a Rockets uniform. Anthony struggled again as he shot 3-8 from the field. Glass half-full? The Rockets as a team look like they are deep-sea diving to find out who they truly are going forward as a team, so it is too early to make a final judgment on Melo. When Anthony does get the ball, the offense is already without flow, which leaves him either to force up a shot or make a split-second decision.

James Ennis’ defensive awareness has been really low to start the season. It showed against the Clippers once again, as he picked up early fouls in short spurts.

The Ugly

The Rockets took a major step back on the defensive boards this season. They allowed 12 offensive boards to the Clippers and were out-rebounded 49-35. Crashing the glass starts with Clint Capela, who grabbed a lackluster 6 rebounds.

What’s Next?

Rockets will be without their All-Star point guard, Chris Paul, yet again as they face a tough Utah Jazz team Wednesday night at Toyota Center. The good news is that Paul will join his team Friday when they seek to redeem themselves from Sunday night’s outing against the Clippers. Paul does not have to wait long for another showdown against his former team. As for Wednesday, Rockets will need to crash the boards, not allowing the Jazz to get second-chance opportunities, and they will need to come out with the same defensive intensity as last season.

*Stats from NBA.com

Restocking the Cupboard: What the Rockets Wing Additions Bring to the ‘18-‘19 Rotation

Last preseason, we saw a glimpse of what newcomers like Luc Mbah a Moute and PJ Tucker would bring to the 2017-2018 Rockets.

The versatile additions showed glimpses of what was to come in a preseason game against the OKC Thunder. In that preseason game, there were a couple of possessions in which Paul George tried taking Mbah a Moute off the dribble. It was encouraging to see Mbah a Moute hold his own and keep Paul George out of the paint. In that same game, Tucker made his defensive presence felt with toughness, hustle and physicality. His fit in this Rockets scheme was evident from the get-go.

Now that the preseason is behind us, and the Rockets have played a handful of games, we have an inkling of what the new additions to the 2018-2019 Rockets roster will bring to the table.

The “Wing” Additions

James Ennis III

Man, is James Ennis III active or what? I loved the Ennis signing when it was announced and thought that he was the ideal guy on the free agent market to replace Ariza. He’s locked down a starting spot in the rotation because of how well he fits in the Rockets system.

Here’s a microcosm of how James Ennis III is who everybody outside of Houston thought Trevor Ariza was: You can see Ennis here grab a defensive rebound and sprint all the way to the opposite corner of the floor in about five seconds. The result? Great floor spacing and a Harden three. It’s easy to tell that Ennis III already has a great understanding of his role and what he needs to bring to the team: energy, defense, hustle, and floor-spacing. He even offers an element that an older Ariza didn’t offer, which is spacing the floor by running the court. His tendency to get out on the break and run the floor hard will help the Rockets starters and second unit play faster when it becomes advantageous to do so.

Here was Ennis’ net rating in the preseason:

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Incredible. It’s also worth noting that he shot 56.3% from three on 3.2 attempts a game in the preseason. That 25.0 minutes-per-game mark should creep up to around 30 minutes in the regular season, as there are plenty of rotation minutes to replace after losing Anderson, Ariza and Moute. I envision four or five three-point attempts per game in the regular season, and if he can knock down, say, 36-37% or higher, he’ll be a great asset to this team.

Through three regular season games, here’s his net rating:

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His numbers have normalized after three regular season games. It is worth noting that Ennis is shooting 42.9% from three on over four-and-a-half attempts a game in the regular season. Regardless, we’re looking at some pretty small sample sizes here. The main point is this: James Ennis’ athleticism, activity level and shooting make him a great fit for this Rockets team.

Michael Carter-Williams

Since the NBA Draft, I’ve had push notifications turned on for Woj’s (Adrian Wojnarowski) tweets, and I’ll admit, I was shocked when I got the notification that the Rockets signed Carter-Williams. Then, one day while I was perusing Twitter, I found myself watching a three-minute montage of Carter-Williams blowing layups and making boneheaded plays during his 2017-2018 season with the Hornets. However, and it pains me to say this, Carter-Williams has looked pretty good in the Rockets system.

In the first preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Carter-Williams had 19 points, missed zero layups, and was pretty active on the defensive end as well. He poked a good amount of balls loose, though he did get called for a couple of fouls on those plays. He cut to the basket at opportune times, finishing difficult layups in traffic. He also attacked off of aggressive close-outs with ease. He looked bouncy, and when he and Ennis were on the court at the same time, they really got out and ran.

I’ll say this about Michael Carter-Williams: Chris Paul and James Harden had defenses so broken down at times this preseason, that when defenders went to close out on an open Carter-Williams from the three-point line, the defenders didn’t even have time to process who they were closing out on. In a vacuum, an NBA defender is not worried about Carter-Williams from three. But when the defense gets broken down, and either Harden or Paul kicks the ball out off of a drive for an open three, the defenders didn’t process that Carter-Williams was the guy open. The defenders closed out on him as aggressively as if he was a competent shooter, and Carter-Williams just blew by them.

Though there have been instances in which this happened in the regular season. It also took less than one regular season game for an opponent to help off of Carter-Williams on defense in the half-court. That could be why Gary Clark got the first crack over Carter-Williams off the bench in the first quarter of the Clippers game (more on Gary Clark later.) And though Carter-Williams has made some great passes in the preseason and the first few regular season games, too frequently is he missing the open guy or simply not making the right pass. For these reasons, we may see Carter-Williams get phased out of the rotation.

It’s okay if the MCW experiment doesn’t work out. Carter-Williams was simply another Daryl Morey “bargain bin” acquisition: the guy has a three-minute YouTube compilation of missed layups, and Morey finds a way to make him a potential rotation piece. And to add to the Morey-ness nature of this acquisition, Carter-Williams’ contract was partially-guaranteed, with a very late guarantee date. They can waive him by 1/10/2019 and save $500K of his $1.76M contract if the situation sours.

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony will likely come off the bench for the Rockets, but he’s going to be an important contributor to the team. He also may technically be disqualified from being considered a wing, as the preseason usage indicates D’Antoni will use him more as a four and a five this year.

Rockets fans who were hopeful to see any remnants of Olympic Melo should be encouraged. Here are some key advanced stats from his year with OKC:

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For reference, the average effective field goal percentage (EFG%, above) in the NBA last year was 52.1%. Melo didn’t have a very efficient year last year, but early signs show that he’s going to turn that around in Houston. His advanced stats in four preseason games with the Rockets looked like this:

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These stats are encouraging. This performance is night and day from his advanced shooting and usage numbers in OKC. His usage (USG%) is down ~30% compared to OKC and his true shooting and effective field goal percentages are up. These changes are the result of taking more efficient shots, as the Rockets system is allowing him to take more open threes and less deep twos.

The Rockets also posted him up at opportune times this preseason, mainly in situations where the shot clock was running down and Melo had a smaller defender on him. This strategy is a great way to use him to maximize his skillset, as well as maximizing efficiency, so long as he buys in. If he buys in, he will be a scary ancillary offensive weapon for this team.

Let’s take a look at his net rating this preseason, compared to last year’s preseason numbers in OKC:

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This comparison is also encouraging, as it reinforces what we’ve seen so far this preseason. Melo went on to post a 5.2 net rating last year in the regular season in OKC, so look for his net rating of 2.1 to trend up as the season goes on.

Lastly, let’s talk defense. The team defense for the Rockets has looked shoddy after three regular season games, and perhaps some of that can be attributed to Melo’s arrival. But it’s not all bad. His basketball IQ has shown itself on defense, as he has played the interior passing lanes well, and his quick hands have allowed him to strip some players who tried backing him down. As I mentioned earlier, it appears he’ll be more of a four and a five than a traditional wing defender, so perhaps this helps mask his defensive limitations.

Gary Clark

What a pleasant surprise Gary Clark has been. At 6-8 and 225 pounds, the undrafted rookie had the NBA body, the defensive ability, and defensive instincts coming out of Cincinnati. But his shot was way better than advertised in the preseason, as he hit a smoldering 55.6% from three on over three-and-a-half attempts a game.

Though that 55.6% clip is unsustainable, I think Clark’s play gives the Rockets an additional wing rotation piece that they weren’t initially anticipating. Clark is a very similar body type to Mbah a Moute, and he should be able to switch onto nearly any player and hold his own defensively. That, coupled with his athleticism and his seemingly improved outside shot, means that Clark could be a real rotation player this season. Here are some of his advanced metrics from the preseason:

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Unreal. These numbers indicate that although he’s on a two-way contract this season, he earned a roster spot on the Rockets and he even saw first quarter action against the Clippers. Even if he’s not a contributor this year, and it looks like he will be, I’m very excited for Clark’s future. Simply put, he just makes sense in today’s NBA.

* Source: stats.nba.com

LeBron James: Worth the Price of Admission

Welcome to the West, Lebron James!

Lebron James has won multiple MVPs, won multiple titles, 13 NBA All-Star appearances, eight straight Finals appearances, and is in the conversation of who is the GOAT? He’s done it all, but one thing that keeps holding him back from being claimed The Greatest of All-time, is that he has these accomplishments in an era where the East is a far inferior Conference than the Western.

That leads skeptics to think he couldn’t possibly appear to as many Finals if he were in the West. Debates on whether or not we should have 1-16 playoff seeding regardless of conference have been a major topic due to this type of success. Lebron James is now putting himself to the test by not just going to the West, but going to a LA Lakers team who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2013.

The King moves to LA.

Lebron is now rocking the purple and gold in the old Showtime Lakers threads under the bright lights of LA. He joins a team who has been underwhelming the past few years, but full of young talent with a lot of potential, including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball. He also brought in some veterans such as Lance Stephenson, Javale Mcgee, and Rajon Rondo. Rondo brings a leadership presence that can help ease the load off Lebron, but by no means he’s no Dwyane Wade. This collection of talent may not be enough to contend in most eyes, but Lebron has done the most with little to nothing, and he is now ready take this Lakers tour on the road to a city near you!

Playoff Feeling

ESPN presents Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in Staples Center for the first time. It is game two of the season and already Lebron faces yet another playoff contender. A sold-out Staples Center was rocking, waiting to see Lebron go up against a legitimate title contender and reigning MVP James Harden and a fresh look Rockets team. You have to hand it to LA they really know to put on an intro and if you were watching on ESPN you had an inside look of the special presentation.

This was more than an opening-night, this night had such electricity in the air you easily can get swept into the hype. In front of 18,997 fans in the building this special night did not disappoint. If you thought this stadium was loud, throughout the game it amped up in the fourth quarter with 4:13 left to play. The Rockets were up by 109-108, when Brandon Ingram in frustration shoved James Harden after he was called for a foul. This was a light skirmish compared to what happened just 20 feet away when Rondo allegedly spit on Chris Paul’s face and the fists started flying. Stars such as Floyd Mayweather were courtside smiling ear to ear, this game truly had it all.

Showtime Is Back

Despite the 124-115 loss to the Rockets, Lebron proved that he is not afraid of the West and he has a team that can compete. Lebron will always do his own thing, leading his team with 24 points, he also ended the game with five boards and five assists. The most important thing is he brought out the potential in his teammates that really highlighted their attributes. Seven other teammates reached double digits in points, most notably Javale Mcgee who seems to take advantage of this bigger role than he had in Golden State with an efficient 7-11 FG for 16 points. Rajon Rondo finished the game with a double-double with 13 points and ten assists.

Although 0-2, this Lebron led team has provided excitement that hasn’t been there since Kobe was competing for championships. Tickets to see The Lakers does not come cheap, the average price for the Lakers debut against the Rockets was an insane $934. Second most expensive ticket is the Christmas game against Golden State which is just over $700. If you don’t make it to the game, you can only wish you had, because Lebron joining the Lakers just might be the best entertainment we didn’t know the NBA needed.

Rockets: The Standoff at Staples and the Aftermath

The Houston Rockets secured their first win of the new season on Saturday in Los Angeles defeating the Lakers 124 to 115.

James Harden proved why he is the reigning MVP, taking over down the stretch to keep Lebron James winless on the season. Harden would finish the night with 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists. On a normal day, his efforts would be the headline from a fast-paced, exciting, up-and-down game. Harden, however, would not be who everyone was talking about the morning after this game.

The headline from this game was an eventual brawl that broke out between Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. What started as a foul committed by Brandon Ingram on James Harden, turned into a massive argument by most of the players on the court over the call. While players and referees were trying to restore order, Rondo reportedly spat on Chris Paul which started a full-fledged fist fight between Rondo and Paul.

By my score card, Paul was ahead on points because he was the busier fighter, landing more power shots. Ingram would try to land a sucker punch late before all three players were ejected. Video evidence then surfaced to support Paul's claim that Rondo spit on him.

The altercation would result in suspensions of four games for Ingram, three games for Rondo, and two games for Paul. The Rockets felt the impact immediately while playing the second night of a back-to-back with the Clippers. They would lose that game 115 to 112, despite another terrific effort from James Harden. While the suspension for Paul is the shortest of the trio involved, I feel the impact is greater because of how much it seems that the Rockets need to gel as a team.

With the new additions to the roster It is clear early on that the team does not have the rotation configured to maximize its effectiveness. Going into the season most talking heads assumed the defense would suffer with the changes to the roster. In examining the first few games, it is actually the offensive efficiency that is lacking. In the Wild West, every loss is magnified; losing to a team like the Clippers shouldn’t happen, given the talent on the roster. However, this team has shown over the past few seasons that bumps in the road here or there can be overcome. One thing is certain, this season’s start is not the one Rockets fans were hoping for.

*Source: NBA.com