*Photo Credit: creativecommons.org
As if the NBA offseason wasn’t already full of shocking twists and turns, another “superteam” has been constructed in the stacked Western Conference. Former New York Knicks star small forward Carmelo Anthony has been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round pick that was previously owned by the Chicago Bulls.
The deal creates another “Big 3” consisting of reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, perennial All-Star Paul George, and Anthony. This is the latest in a series of dichotomy-altering moves that include Kyrie Irving’s trade to the Boston Celtics, Jimmy Butler’s trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the aforementioned George’s switch to the Thunder from the Indiana Pacers. At this point, it is easy to call recent efforts by other teams to catch up to the Golden State Warriors an arms race.
Melo and his new team find themselves competing in a West that includes James Harden’s new look Houston Rockets with Chris Paul, a rock-solid San Antonio Spurs squad, and, of course, the NBA Champion Warriors. Perhaps this can be Sam Presti’s move to launching his squad into the expanding NBA title race. On the other hand, the Thunder now must pay the tab on the final two years of Anthony’s 5 year, $124 million contract, which now brings them almost $15 million into the league’s luxury tax for this upcoming season. If OKC’s offseason activity leads to any sustained postseason success, Presti can win Executive of the Year.
In the long term, this move has the potential to be detrimental to the Thunder as Paul George becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Westbrook and Anthony could leave in the 2019 offseason if this experiment yields unfitting results. The key variable to determine the success of this deal for the Thunder is obviously their chances of competing for an NBA title.
Meanwhile, in New York City, James Dolan’s franchise can begin the 2017-18 season with a clean slate. The Knicks no longer have to fret over paying Carmelo Anthony’s massive contract, and the team can focus on building a team centered around budding future all-star Kristaps Porzingis. After a fruitless six-year tenure in New York, the Melo project is over for long-suffering Knicks fans.
Enes Kanter now finds himself becoming a crucial bench piece to a Knicks squad with a frontline consisting of Porzingis, Billy Hernangomez, Kyle O’Quinn, and a past-his-prime Joakim Noah. His offensive rebounding abilities and low-post prowess will be available when Kristaps needs a rest. Doug McDermott, 2014 College National Player of the Year, will also see his services as a sharpshooter utilized. It is quite clear that the new order in the Big Apple will consist of Porzingis, rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, and shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. This move will most likely not result in any immediate postseason appearances for the Knicks, but they can certainly become a consistent playoff team in a few seasons.