Luc Mbah a Moute is leaving the Rockets. And, to use one of the more cursed sentences in the English language, he’s going to be a Clipper. The former Houston forward signed an artificially deflated one-year, $4.3 million contract with the L.A. team that doesn’t have LeBron, in a deal that the Rockets could have easily bettered with their taxpayer mid-level exception at one-year, $5.3 million. Why didn’t they do so? What are they waiting for? If it’s because the extra $5.3 million would have cost the team a solid chunk of change in luxury taxes, then new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and GM Daryl Morey may as well admit that Houston’s championship hopes are out of reach.
Fertitta’s team was one Chris Paul injury and/or one game away from reaching the Finals last season. But losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute really fucks with Houston’s perimeter defense, not to mention the perimeter shooting the two provided for both the first and second team. They both shot over 36 percent from three last season—a higher clip than, say, Carmelo Anthony, perhaps the next best option available in free agency. And now it looks like that’s exactly who the Rockets are targeting to bolster their wing depth.
If they do roll the dice on Anthony, besides bringing on a generally grumpy team-killer, the defensive liability that signing would create would eventually become untenable. Ariza and Mbah a Moute were helpful three-and-D guys, able to switch and guard a number of positions with their length and defensive intuition. Melo, uh, doesn’t do any of that. The last time anyone said that Melo had any defensive intuition, he was angrily batting away vulgar-ass comments Kevin Garnett made about his wife.
This is all really bad for the Rockets. Are they just semi-punting this season, half-expecting the Warriors to win it all again? It seems like it, if they’re content to lose two key role players with no concrete, well-adjusted replacement in sight. But maybe this season is fucked in Golden State’s favor anyway, and the Rockets are just ahead of the curve. Nothing matters anymore, especially in basketball. The Warriors are -175 to win it all next season. Not bad.