The “Big Apple” loves their stars, but they are hungry for wins. After 7-years of Carmelo Anthony being the star, the fans’ hunger for wins only grew as the Knicks produced disappointing season after disappointing season. Finally, the Knicks’ front office felt it was time to move on, and for most of the 2017 off-season, they tried. Anthony refused to be traded to any other team besides the Rockets, and the Rockets refused to give up anybody other than Ryan Anderson. As training camp approached and Anthony realized his unrealistic request could have him back in a Knicks jersey, he expanded his list of teams from one to four on Friday night and on Saturday morning he became the newest member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It took less than 24 hours for Thunder General Manager Sam Presti to get his hands in the Carmelo sweepstakes and come out the winner just as he did in the Paul George sweepstakes.
Presti found a way to turn two terrible contracts into two separate all-stars in the same off-season. Adding Anthony and Paul George to MVP Russell Westbrook creates a new big three. The thing most teams should fear about the new Thunder is how well they can fit together. It’s Westbrook’s team, but people question how all three of these players (who are all ball hogs) will function. It’ll require extra effort and unselfishness, but Westbrook was able to average 10 assists with a roster almost devoid of players who could hit an ocean with a rock while standing on the beach. He now has two players who are not only good shooters, but are elite in catch and shoot situations. Anthony is so good in these type of situations, especially when surrounded by other elite players, that they’ve dubbed him “Olympic Melo”, due to him only playing this way when sporting a team USA jersey. However, with an MVP level point guard in Westbrook, we could see the “Olympic Melo” that has been leading Olympic teams in scoring playing a primarily catch and shoot role. Paul George doesn’t have the “Olympic mode” moniker, but he is one of the league’s best when it comes to spot up shooting. George totaled 238 points on 42.9% shooting in such situations.
Along with spot up shooting, the two new forwards add extra ball handling and 1 on 1 scoring to relieve Westbrook of constant pressure to perform. Paul George, who has three all-defense team selections to his name, combined with Andre Roberson, who has one selection of his own, also give the Thunder two top tier wing defenders. The Thunder are also one of only six teams who have multiple all-defense players. Along with Steven Adams, who’s known for his rugged defense, the Thunder have the defensive stalwarts necessary cover for Anthony and to potentially compete with the Golden State Warriors.
How this Thunder team works is all up to Billy Donovan because it’ll be on him to institute an offensive and defensive scheme to turn this team into champions. That’s not very encouraging considering Donovan’s lack of experience and the fact that Kevin Durant mentioned Donovan by name while explaining why he left OKC when mistaking his personal Twitter accounts for one of his “I’m not Kevin Durant, I just think he’s awesome” accounts.
The fit and talent are most certainly championship level, but they don’t have a lot of time to prove it as Paul “I’m already in LA” George, Russell “I’m also from LA” Westbrook, and Carmelo “I’m only here because no one wants Ryan Anderson” Anthony can all opt out and become free agents this summer. With them all being big city people, it’s hard to see them sticking in OKC for anything that ain’t gold.
While the Knicks didn’t exactly lose the trade per say, they certainly didn’t win it either. Carmelo was an aging all-star — the oldest to be traded this offseason. In addition, this was the off-season of “Wow! That guy got traded? WAIT! That’s all they got?! I could’ve done better,” combined with Anthony’s no trade clause and short list of teams meant there was no way the Knicks were getting anything good. They ended up receiving Enes Kanter, 25, Doug McDermott, 25, and a second round draft pick that belongs to the Chicago Bulls. While both are young, Kanter adds an additional $17 million to an already crowded center position and both have failed to live up to their pre-draft hype primarily due to their defensive struggles.. The Bulls’ second round pick was a pretty good get for the Knicks as they’ll be bad so the pick will likely fall between 31 and 35.
The Knicks tried to get more but the Cavaliers weren’t interested, the Rockets were tired of going back and forth, and the Trailblazers wanted to wait leading the Knicks to settle on a less than ideal trade package. The value they got back wasn’t as bad as it seems at first glance but it wasn’t what they really needed. How the Knicks move forward from here will truly determine how they did in this trade because as the Melo era comes to an end, the Porzingis era begins and he is more than ready for the task.