Personally, I think that it's a little crazy that I have doubts about bringing Carmelo Anthony to Houston. Part of me insists that Kevin Martin is a better fit for the Rockets, but another part of me can't bear to see Martin leave so soon, no matter who is brought in to replace him. I can't decide which of my two thoughts is the more prevalent, because if it's the latter, then perhaps an Anthony trade should be made.
It really comes down to what type of player the Rockets need. Martin is your super-efficient, sit-back-and-wait-for-space scorer who doesn't demand touches and is almost too unselfish at times. He's got a great shot. He gets to the free throw line. He does everything as subtly as possible and, from my perspective, his goal on every possession is for the team to take the best possible shot, regardless of who takes it. I can't read minds, but I think that's what Kevin Martin thinks.
Then again, at times, I wish Martin would be more assertive. Can we chalk up his occasional passiveness last season to a bum shoulder and a weak wrist? After an entire offseason to build up his body (he reportedly couldn't lift weights while his wrist was still recovering), will he become more aggressive? We don't know yet. Perhaps he doesn't have a killer mentality, at least not to the level of a typical top scoring option. I can't judge just yet, because I haven't seen a truly healthy Kevin Martin in a Rockets uniform, not to mention with a full offseason of preparation and work.
On the other hand, you have Carmelo Anthony, the dominant one-on-one scorer that the Rockets have been missing and have been craving. He's a star. Basketball ability aside, he'd be great for business and would likely draw more fans to the arena.
On the court, Anthony can shoulder the offensive load and erupt on any given night. He actually doesn't have a bad outside shot if you use him correctly (if you liked what you saw from Martin last year, then you'll like Anthony from deep: he shot 38% on spot-up threes. Martin shot 34%. It's Anthony's transition and isolation three-point attempts that drag down his percentage). He's great in the post and can take advantage of smaller defenders, and while Martin gets to the line at a good rate, Anthony sees the charity stripe more often and shoots a good percentage (roughly 80 percent).
The big, attractive draw with Anthony is his ability to isolate and score outside of the set offense. If an offense breaks down or is "figured out" (though Rick Adelman's approach is flexible enough to adapt, I'm sure), then having a player like Anthony to be able to find a way to score is pivotal. And on top of that, the Rockets have been missing a go-to scorer late in games for a while. That's a huge draw with Anthony.
Then again, we can't blow that statistic out of proportion.
How much value can we place in the final minute of the game? It's a 48-minute contest. The first 47 minutes matter just as much as the final minute does, because if Carmelo Anthony shoots 5 for 20 throughout the game but makes the final shot to seal the win, his inefficiency up to that point can't be overlooked. Had Anthony shot better, perhaps the Rockets wouldn't have needed to win on the final shot. Perhaps they could have been up by seven in the final minute instead of being tied with their opponent. This is just an example - clearly, a 5 for 20 shooting night for Anthony is uncommon - but given how inefficient Anthony can be at times, we can't overvalue what he brings in crunch time.
This is the philosophy that this current Rockets team is built around. If all goes according to plan - if players run the offense correctly and take good shots and compliment each other like a true, five-man offense - then the last shot shouldn't have to be the most important shot.
So I don't want to place too much value in Anthony's ability to isolate and win a game at the end. I don't want to overshadow what Kevin Martin can do in the general flow of a game by placing a giant microscope on the final minute. I also don't want what I've said to discount what Anthony can do throughout the course of an entire game, either.
All I'm saying is that perhaps the sexy move isn't wholly necessary, and that trading away Martin and draft picks may not be worth it. The gain in acquiring Anthony doesn't seem substantial enough to justify a trade, especially with how much behind-the-scenes work will need to be done in order to make Melo a good fit. It's just not worth breaking apart what the Rockets have already got.
Whoops, forgot about defense. Let's briefly discuss that.
Defensively, there's not a lot to like about either player. As I've said before, a replenishing of the Rockets' frontcourt depth should aid the defense and shore up some of the faults that we saw with our perimeter defense last season. I hate to leave too much to be desired in analyzing the defensive side of the ball - after all, as Kelly Dwyer often notes, it's an entire half of the game - but I don't see much improvement with bringing Melo onboard. He's not significantly better or worse than Martin.
Lastly, I'd like to address the issue of continuity and overall team chemistry. I don't know how good or bad a teammate Carmelo Anthony is (aside from the fact that he is jettisoning a team who has recently been on the cusp of contending for a title). It is my guess, however, that the Rockets have become used to having Martin around, and that Martin is fitting in nicely himself. When the Kings trade went down back in February, it was the perfect fit. Daryl Morey got his wish in acquiring one of the most efficient scorers out there. Martin became reunited with Coach Adelman, who might be the perfect coach to emphasize what Martin does best. Then, recently, Brad Miller was brought onboard, a player who mentored Martin during his early days in Sacramento. From a personal comfort zone standpoint, Kevin Martin and the Houston Rockets are a fantastic fit. It makes too much sense, all of it.
From an X's and O's standpoint, a starting lineup featuring Aaron Brooks, Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola and (presumably) Yao Ming makes much more sense than a lineup that would likely feature Brooks, Courtney Lee, Anthony, Scola and Yao. I'm a huge fan of a Brooks/Martin backcourt. It's incredibly versatile. The two players are nearly interchangeable. It presents plenty of problems for a defense.
As I've said before, you can't put Shane Battier with the second unit. He's not fit for the shooting guard role should Anthony come aboard, so he would instead be tossed to the bench to play alongside Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson. I value Battier too highly to suddenly demote him from his starting job and throw him into an unworkable situation. It doesn't make any sense.
With Kevin Martin, the current puzzle fits. With Carmelo Anthony, it gets complicated. The question remains: is the current puzzle worth keeping intact? I think so.