Depleted by the defections of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, the Houston Rockets are "determined" to add Carmelo Anthony once the veteran forward secures his departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder, writes ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).
Rockets lose two forwards now — including Ariza — from NBA’s best regular season team. Houston is detemined to sign Carmelo Anthony once he becomes free in OKC, sources tell ESPN.
In addition, Wojnarowski writes on ESPN.com that the Rockets will be a "premium consideration" for Anthony's services -- whenever he does part ways with the Thunder:
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 the Oklahoma City Thunder, 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 if they are unable to find a trade partner, league sources said. The Rockets will be a premium consideration for Anthony, along with the Miami Heat, league sources said.
Undoubtedly, the Rockets' losses in the frontcourt in free agency has created a sense of urgency for Houston to patch some of those holes. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Rockets' interest in Anthony -- as well as in some other current free agents -- is real:
The Rockets remain optimistic they can sign 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony when he becomes a free agent, two individuals with knowledge of the team’s thinking said. But with Mbah a Moute and Ariza gone from a team that improved to sixth in the league defensively, the Rockets likely will seek to sign a young prospect with strong potential on defensive.
The Rockets have shown interest in James Ennis, an athletic small forward who played for Rockets associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik at Memphis; Treveon Graham, a free agent who played sparingly at Charlotte last season; and James Nunnally, an outstanding shooter with defensive ability who played in Turkey.
The Rockets again will have to make up for losing him. They could have offered Mbah a Moute up to $5.3 million, their taxpayer mid-level exception, but could have sought to save that or much of it for Anthony. Mbah a Moute’s one-year deal with the Rockets, if they were not using their mid-level exception, would have been worth $2.4 million but would have given him early Larry Bird rights next summer to exceed the salary cap to re-sign with the Rockets.
With the luxury taxes the Rockets would have had to pay, assuming they sign center Clint Capela, Mbah a Moute’s contract would have cost the Rockets roughly $6 million in salary and taxes. The Clippers’ offer would have cost them roughly $16 million.
Instead, while still trying to get a deal with Capela, the Rockets will be trying to make up for summer losses with their “run it back” plan taking a second significant hit.
With Anthony having opted into the final year of his contract for $28 million, the Thunder are reportedly exploring options to jettison him and diminish what would be a record tax bill.
Anthony, 34, is coming off his worst season in the NBA, averaging 16.2 points on 40.4-percent shooting.
But having lost two of their top eight scorers, including a starter in Ariza, the Rockets can't be choosy as they seek to follow up their team-record 65 victories last season.
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