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NBA trade rumors: Carmelo Anthony looking increasingly likely in Houston

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The final piece of the next Big Three appears closer than ever to coming to the Rockets.

NBA: New York Knicks at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

In the course of reporting James Harden’s supermax, record-breaking contract extension, ESPN hit Rockets fans with this little nugget.

The Rockets have fast-tracked the Harden extension with the arrival of All-Star guard Chris Paul and are turning full attention to completing a deal with the New York Knicks to acquire eight-time All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony in a trade, league sources said.

[...]

The Rockets have been in talks with the Knicks about Anthony, who has informed the Knicks he would waive his no-trade clause if a deal could be worked out with Houston, league sources told ESPN.

As I’ve written before, ‘Melo is an obvious fit in Houston. He’d be the starting power forward, and an improvement on both sides of the ball from Ryan Anderson. If he were to come to Houston, Anderson would be gone, and that’s a win.

Last year for the Knicks, Melo scored 22.4 points per game with 36 percent shooting from deep. He grabbed fewer than 6 rebounds a game, the first time he averaged less than a half-dozen since he was 21. He was playing for a moribund organization and an executive who tried to make his life miserable, and he still put up 22-6-3. He’s better than he showed, still. The concerns over his ball-stopping are real, but for the Rockets, he’d have Harden and CP3 creating offense for him, and he just needs to shoot. He could be the power forward version of Klay Thompson, and he’d be great at it.

The rub, however, is what else needs to go out to bring ‘Melo in.

People can laugh all they want, but I view Clint Capela as untouchable. He’s the perfect complement to James Harden — their chemistry on the pick and roll is insane, and considering Harden is here for at least six years, that should be preserved — and he’s just 23 years old. There’s no reason to think he won’t keep improving for years, as all big men do.

Eric Gordon is a little trickier. He’s too good to happily part with, and he’s the perfect third guard along with Harden and Chris Paul. He’s one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, is on a solid contract and is an above-average defender. If he were to head east in a deal for ‘Melo, the Rockets would be precariously thin behind their two superstars. Isaiah Taylor, as scrappy and quick as he is, is not ready for 15 minutes a game. P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza can’t run the offense a wink.

And yet, it’s hard to see a situation, even with a third team involved, in which neither Gordon nor Capela is moved for ‘Melo. Maybe the Knicks are so desperate to get rid of him they’ll take late-first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2022.

Other than Gordon and Capela, the Rockets could theoretically trade Ariza (not happening), Tim Quarterman, Chinanu Onuaku, Isaiah Taylor or Shawn Long. The cupboard is damn near bare. The talks of Morey’s desire to add ‘Melo make me nervous only because I know the Rockets will need to give up something of value, and I just don’t know how I’d feel about Gordon going out and no other valuable guard coming in.

Maybe there is some other deal Morey is working on in the wings to bring in a guard to replace Gordon. Maybe Derrick Rose wants to come to Houston on the minimum (barf). Melo would make the Rockets better, but trading for him might wind up making the Rockets worse. We shall see.