NBA free agency 2018: Rockets 'strong front-runners' to land Carmelo Anthony once he leaves Thunder, per report

Although many of the big questions surrounding NBA free agency have been answered, another has recently emerged. After Carmelo Anthony opted in to the final year of his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways at some point this summer. It is not yet known when this will happen, or whether Anthony will be traded or simply bought out, but one thing is clear: Anthony won't be playing for the Thunder next season.

As he looks to find his third team in three seasons, Anthony already has multiple suitors. The Lakers -- who boast Anthony's good friend LeBron James -- are reportedly interested. So, too, are the Houston Rockets -- where Anthony's other close friend Chris Paul plays -- and the Miami Heat

According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets are preparing to make a strong push for Anthony after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency. In addition, the Rockets and Heat will reportedly be a "premium consideration" for Anthony. Via ESPN:

The Rockets have lost Mbah a Moute, 31, and Trevor Ariza, and plan to ramp up a pursuit of Carmelo Anthony once he becomes available after a trade and buyout, or waive and stretch, with Oklahoma City, league sources told ESPN.

The Thunder could waive-and-stretch Anthony's $27.9 million salary -- saving the franchise $107 million in salary and tax -- within the next seven to 10 days should they be unable to find a trade, league sources said. The Rockets will be a premium consideration for Anthony -- along with the Miami Heat, league sources said. 

Just a few days after Wojnarowski's report, his old colleague Shams Charania noted Friday that the Rockets have become 'strong front-runners' to acquire Anthony once he parts ways with the Thunder. 

After how poorly Anthony played last season with the Thunder, it's interesting that so many playoff teams are eager to pick him up. Yes, he's still talented, and one of the best players of his generation, but it's hard to see how Anthony is doing much to help these teams at this point in his career. For the Rockets, especially, going from Ariza and Mbah a Moute to Michael Carter-Williams and Anthony would be quite a blow.

SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh's computer simulations back up this assumption. He has the Rockets actually getting worse with the potential acquisition of Anthony.

RocketsWinsMake PlayoffsWin ConferenceNBA Title

Current roster

52.5

97.9%

7.7%

4.0%

with Carmelo

51.5

97.5%

6.2%

3.1%

Difference

-1.0

-0.4%

-1.5%

-0.9%

"Despite his individual poor shooting, his presence did help the Thunder improve their overall effective field goal percentage from 50.8 percent without him to 51.7 percent with him," Oh said. "[Russell] Westbrook, [Paul] George, [Steven] Adams, etc. all shot better with Carmelo on the floor. But defensively, opponents had an effective field goal percentage of 53.7 percent with Carmelo on the court, and that went down to 50.7 percent when Carmelo was not on the floor.

"So he still has value getting better looks for teammates, but his own poor shooting and bad defense makes teams better off without him."

Regardless, it will be fascinating to not only watch this story develop, but to see how Anthony plays next season -- wherever that may be. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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