LAS VEGAS - As the Heat waits for Carmelo Anthony’s expected exit from Oklahoma City, multiple ESPN announcers said off the air this week that they believe the Heat would be a better fit than Houston would be for the 10-time All Star, even though the Rockets are considered to have a far better chance of making the NBA Finals.
Among them: Amin Elhassan, a prominent voice on the network’s NBA coverage and former scouting coordinator and assistant director of basketball operations for the Phoenix Suns.
“For many of these other mentioned destinations, I don’t think it would work out because he’s a guy who still lives in a world where he’s an elite scorer, where he’s a centerpiece, or at least he’s a guy that gets regular touches down the floor,” Elhassan said this week during a game at Thomas & Mack Center.
“The one place that could actually offer him that and the accompanying, ‘hey work, rebound, defend and all the other dirty work’ is Miami. If he buys into the culture, he could [thrive there].”
But Anthony isn’t considered much of a defender. So would that be problematic with the Heat?
“He doesn’t have to be elite; he just has to be good enough,” Elhassan said. “When you are a smart player, and he’s a smart player, when you are on the floor with four guys who are plus at defending their positions, you can make it work.
“You look at [Houston’s] James Harden last year. Was he massively better defensively? He improved a little bit, but a lot of it was you put him on the floor with four defenders and say just don’t mess it up. He can do that. Melo is the same way.
“The bigger thing is conditioning, because that’s the big thing in Miami. When you look at the transformations Dion Waiters and James Johnson made and all those guys made, the biggest thing is they bought into the idea that they are going to run us like dogs and you are going to look shredded after a couple months under that program. That’s a big part of buying in. Basketball wise, I think Carmelo will be fine [if he signs with Miami]. It’s the conditioning and all the extra work.”
The Heat and Houston are considered the top contenders for Anthony once he becomes available; both teams met with him in Las Vegas earlier this week after being granted permission by the Thunder. People with both organizations indicated this week that they don’t know which team Anthony will choose.
Anthony, 34, averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds and hit a career-high 169 three pointers for the Thunder last season. Opposing players shot 47.5 percent against Anthony, compared with 46.6 overall.
Anthony and agent Leon Rose have been working to resolve Anthony’s exit from the Thunder, who want to dump Anthony via trade or by cutting him and stretching his $27.9 million cap hit over three years in order to reduce a large luxury tax bill.
The Heat could offer him the $2.4 million veteran’s minimum or all or part of its $5.3 million exception.
HEAT WINS, ADVANCES
▪ Forward Jarrod Jones, who has played overseas after going undrafted out of Ball State in 2012, scored 31 points in the Heat’s 110-106 victory against a New Orleans team of rookies and young veterans in the Las Vegas Summer League. Georgia rookie Yante Maten added 19 points and Duncan Robinson had 11. Miami advanced to play a game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
▪ Derrick Walton Jr. started for the Heat and played well a day after the Heat withdrew its qualifying offer to him, making him an unrestricted free agent.
“It was a discussion had and we leave it at that,” said Walton, who closed with 15 points, 11 assists and three steals. “I’m happy to compete and make some decisions out here to help us win.”
Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said Walton’s performance Thursday “shows his mental toughness.”
▪ The Heat rested Bam Adebayo… Derrick Jones Jr. sat out his second game in a row with a sprained ankle.
▪ Heat assistant coach Dan Craig, on being selected to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff for USA Basketball’s July 25-27 minicamp in Las Vegas:
“I was a little shocked and super excited, flattered and honored. [Erik Spoelstra] called me and told me….I was kinda of, ‘What? Did you have something to do with this?’”
Like former lead assistant David Fizdale (now the Knicks coach), Craig is considered a potential future NBA head coach.
No Heat players were selected among the 35 chosen for the 2018-20 USA men’s national team roster of players. Members of the U.S. Olympic team in 2020 likely will be selected from that pool of players.