The Rockets have been heavily linked to Carmelo Anthony, but a few pieces need to be included for a deal to work.
The Rockets adding Carmelo Anthony could be scary. We've seen what 'Olympic Melo' can do with great teammates. There's also been plenty of reports that Anthony can be a good defender when he really wants to be. Having said that, it's not a seamless fit for the Rockets, and there are certainly defensive question marks that include whether a team with Harden and Anthony can hold a team to less than 110 points per game.
The Rockets traded away three of their best assets to get Chris Paul in a 2018 first round pick, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. The Knicks under GM Steve Mills have been quiet in free agency and are determined for the first time in a while to genuinely commit to a rebuild. The Knicks would want at least one young piece and a pick ideally in any trade for Anthony.
The Rockets don't have any young pieces left. Patrick Beverley may have been a good chip in any deal for Anthony, but he's at the Clippers now too. In terms of future assets, here's what the Rockets have and can deal:
2018 second round pick - the least favorable of Charlotte, Memphis, and Miami.
2019 first round pick - cannot trade due to the Stepien rule
2020 first round pick
2020 second round pick
2021 first round pick
2021 second round pick
2022 first round pick
2022 second round pick
The Knicks would certainly covet the 2020 first round pick. Chris Paul is off the books at the end of this year and James Harden has a $32 million dollar player option for that season. It's not inconceivable that the Rockets could break the team up by then.
The Rockets may not be interested in trading any of their other first round picks, as trading so far into the future is a huge gamble - particularly for a player who may just be a one-year rental.
In terms of players the Rockets could include in a deal, it's likely that only Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza are on the table. There have been reports that the Knicks are not really interested in Anderson due to his age and his overlapping skill set with Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks were interested in Gordon last year, but he still has three years left on his contract and his salary increases every year. With Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah still on the books, the Knicks would be foolish to lock themselves down with another long-term deal for a role player.
Ariza is the interesting one, but he hasn't been floated around in rumors as much. He's got just under seven and a half million dollars left on his contract, which expires at the end of this season. More cap flexibility makes sense for the Knicks.
A deal for Ariza and a lottery protected first round pick in 2020 makes sense for both sides, but the Rockets would take on too much salary.
A workable solution could be Ariza, Gordon, and a cheap salary - Tim Quarterman could be used perhaps. The Knicks could then potentially move either of Lee or Gordon down the line in a trade, while Ariza and Quarterman would expire after this season.
Another option would be Anderson and Isaiah Hartenstein, who the Rockets selected in the second round this year.
The length of Gordon's and Anderson's deals makes things tricky for the Knicks, while Anthony's trade kicker makes things extremely difficult for the Rockets. He can choose to waive that if he wants, but it's not a given.
It's very likely a third team is going to have to get involved. It's going to be something fun to monitor.