Houston Rockets: Melo not the only problem, removing him was the only answer

Carmelo Anthony was far from the Houston Rockets’ only problem during their slow start to the season. In spite of that, getting rid of him was the perfect solution.

The Houston Rockets years-long pursuit of Carmelo Anthony finally ended this offseason. Last year, the Knicks opted to send him to the Thunder. They were good but the roles were iffy and the results didn’t quite up to par. So, the Thunder opted to send him to the Hawks in a salary dump where they ultimately bought out his contract.

This allowed Melo to choose whatever team he wanted, though nearly everyone expected him to join up with Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston to form what could have been one of the most potent offenses the league has ever seen.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be a pipedream. The Rockets stumbled out to a really rough start to the season, going 1-4 through their first five games settling themselves in the bottom few teams in the Western Conference. Which, as you probably know, isn’t a great look for a team that was one game away from the Finals just a few months prior.

Must Read: Three Rockets to see a role increase with Melo's departure

After the rough start, rumors and stories began to trickle out of the Houston Rockets camp that Melo was growing discontent with his role coming off of the bench. He and the Rockets brass disagreed on what would best help the team. After a week or so of that, those rumors and storylines transformed into ones that said Melo was on his way out the door.

Daryl Morey immediately popped out into the media said that such rumors simply weren’t true and the illness Melo was being held out with was legitimate. However, that was refuted a few days later when an official statement was released that Melo and the Rockets were parting ways though they would be waiving him just yet.

That was about a week ago now and the Houston Rockets have since played six games without Melo. They dropped the first game without him but have since ripped off five wins in a row to climb to above .500 for the first time all year. On the surface, it appears that Melo was the only problem and everything is fixed now that he is not with the team.

However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Rockets had lots of problems to start the season. Pretty much the entire team, aside from Harden, was struggling to find their shooting stroke, in fact, some guys like Eric Gordon are still struggling to find their shooting stroke. Paul has struggled to find his shooting stroke as well, including his free throw shot. Fortunately, he has rebounded well and is getting it back.

On top of that, the defense was abysmal. The Rockets, seemingly, couldn’t stop anyone on offense and with their shots not falling, didn’t stand a chance to win games. Things got so bad that the team had to convince Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement to lead the defense.

This team had a lot of stuff to work through so Melo definitely was not the only problem. However, it seems removing him from the equation seems to be the perfect answer to a lot of the Houston Rockets problems, so far at least.

The defense has improved a lot since Melo was taken out of the equation. They have been able to field more defensive-minded lineups that have been able to stifle opposing offenses. The Rockets have only allowed over 100 points half of the six games without Melo

The offense has also stepped up over the past few games while the team really finds their rhythm and cohesion on that end of the floor. The most impressive performance was against the Kings when they set a season high for scoring with 132 points and the whole team just went off.

One of the biggest reasons for this turnaround, on both sides of the court for that matter, is the emergence of Gary Clark. He’s everything the Rockets were hoping Melo could be and more. He has surprisingly quick feet on defense to pair with excellent awareness. On top of that, he never demands the ball and has been hitting threes at an ideal clip for this team.

Regardless of all the factors, this Houston Rockets team is playing extremely good basketball right and they’re poised to make a run to climb back to the top of the Western Conference where they belong. Removing Melo seems to have been the correct move for this team. In an environment that makes it hard to admit mistakes, this is a refreshing move that has allowed the Rockets to return to prominence.

Next: Three reasons to start Gary Clark immediately

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In the six games without Melo, the Houston Rockets have averaged over 113 points per game and have only given up an average of 103 points, including locking down the defending champion Warriors to the tune of 86 points.