After losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, the Houston Rockets have been aggressively pursuing Carmelo Anthony, who will soon become an unrestricted free agent after clearing waivers with the Atlanta Hawks. Anthony is expected to replace Ariza as the Rockets starting small forward where he is expected to be their third scoring option behind James Harden and Chris Paul.
The nearing acquisition of Carmelo Anthony will undeniably boost the Rockets’ offense, but most people see him as a liability on the defensive end of the floor. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, aside from the adding Anthony to their roster, the Rockets are also planning to be active on the trade market searching for a defensive-minded player.
The Rockets have reportedly expressed their willingness to trade forward Ryan Anderson in exchange for a long-term contract. Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype suggested that Houston may consider engaging in a trade deal with the Charlotte Hornets involving Anderson and Nicolas Batum.
“If the Rockets were able to add someone like Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum, it could make sense for both sides. Houston would get a significant contributor on the perimeter, while Charlotte would get to dump Batum’s big contract (potentially without surrendering an asset like a future first-round pick). Batum is one of four targets recently linked to the Rockets in such a deal, though not at all by Windhorst.”
— Kelly Iko (@KellyIkoNBA) June 11, 2018
As Kalbrosky noted, trading Ryan Anderson for Nicolas Batum will bury the Rockets deep in the luxury tax hell for the next three years, assuming that the Hornets small forward opts into the final year of his contract. However, the Rockets won’t mind paying Batum as long as he can be a reliable contributor to the team, unlike Anderson who has been a huge disappointment since signing a four-year, $80 million deal with Houston in 2016.
Aside from being a reliable option on the offensive end of the floor, Nicolas Batum is also a versatile defender which makes him the perfect replacement for Trevor Ariza. In 64 games he played last season, the 29-year-old small forward averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.8 rebounds on 41.5 percent shooting from the field and 33.6 percent from beyond the arc. If Anthony fails to make himself fit playing alongside James Harden and Chris Paul, Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni may consider making Batum their new starting small forward.
As of now, it remains unknown if there is an ongoing negotiation between the Rockets and the Hornets involving Ryan Anderson and Nicolas Batum. Expect more rumors to circulate as the 2018 NBA offseason goes deeper.