Just over a year ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost the best player in franchise history to the NBA’s juggernaut Golden State Warriors. It was devastating, and rocked the league from top to bottom.
This offseason, we really saw its affects. Stars among the names of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap and Paul George all changed teams, as front offices realized what it’d take to contend with Golden State.
The last domino was Carmelo Anthony, who until just over a week ago was still a member of the New York Knicks. Yup, it was September 23rd, less than month until the season’s tip-off, and superstars were still getting traded.
There really is no offseason.
The NBA really has surpassed the NFL in terms of being a 12 month sport. The NFL will always dominate the headlines and ratings, but the NBA has stole the throne in terms of actual conversation about the league. In July of any year, what are we talking about NFL-wise? Concussion studies? Player suspensions?
Maybe the NBA Summer of 2017 was an outlier. As I said above, it seems as if teams have figured out what needs to be done to compete with Golden State. Only two of the superstars listed above were free agents who left their teams. This offseason featured the draft and free agency like all other offseasons do, but had two particular events that dragged out the madness.
Kyrie Irving’s trade request was made public on July 21st. By then in any other offseason, the dust has settled. The majority of free agents had signed; it’s when the offseason really begins.
But THIS year, that was just the beginning of the summer’s biggest story. It wasn’t until a month and a day later that Kyrie was actually traded. Then we spent the next two weeks talking about it.
Then the Paul George-Lakers tampering story took up a week of stories and content.
THEN the Kyrie trade almost fell through because of Isaiah Thomas’ injured hip, and we spent a week discussing how Cleveland should handle that.
And finally, we arrived to last week, when the final domino of the offseason fell. Melo to the Thunder for some spare parts. It was September 23rd and superstars were still getting traded.
The NBA might be a 12 month sport now, but never again will we see a Summer where two stars are traded after free agency, and definitely never again will we see one of the trades almost fall through and have this much drama attached to it (OK, both of them had “this much” drama attached to it).
Thunder get: Carmelo Anthony
Knicks get: Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, 2nd round pick
This is a hard trade for me to evaluate because, if I were a NBA GM, I wouldn’t even give my worst player for Melo.
That doesn’t mean that’s his actual value. For someone who can still score at a high level and be a superstar, something somewhat considerable should have been given up. That was not the case here.
The return was part New York just wanting to get rid of him (Like Indiana with Paul George), part Sam Presti finessing them, and partly the Knicks front office people being a bunch idiots (And yes Jame Dolan, that includes you).
The biggest issue New York had to deal with in trade discussions was that nobody, not even the Kings, was gonna give up any piece that would help even contribute to a championship team. Therefore, you had to sell him for a bag of potato chips.
But was Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2nd round pick really all you could do? Kanter is a one dimensional big who can’t space the floor and couldn’t defend a telephone pole if he tried; he’s one of the guys losing his place in the league. Oh, and he’s making $10 million more than he should. McDermott just hasn’t been able to figure it out, and the 2nd round pick is just the Knicks saying “OK, we have to get something that the fans can at least somewhat look forward to.”
It really was the Paul George scenario all over again. Indiana had to trade him for whatever they could, and coupling that situation with incompetent management created an absolute steal for OKC.
Both times a team got desperate this Summer, OKC was there to step in and snatch the commodity. It was masterful work by Sam Presti, who’s needs to make a splash after his past four years. Sure, he drafted Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden. But he never cashed in on that trio, trading Harden in what is probably the worst trade in NBA history and letting KD walk out the door.
Is Presti’s masterful work this Summer gonna pay off? Sure, the value side of his moves are impeccable. They traded Victor Olidipo, Domantas Sabonis, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2nd round pick for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. What if I told you that a year ago? I mean, it’s not like Melo and PG have changed as players since then.
But everything can change once you’re on the court. As the 2012-2013 Lakers taught us, having two very, very ball-dominant players doesn’t work. That’s Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony now.
Prior to this trade, I was ready to make Oklahoma City the No.3 seed in the Western Conference. I thought Russ and Paul George would be deadly, as George doesn’t need the ball and can be a solid scorer on the wing, something OKC couldn’t find last season. But bringing in Melo adds another needy set of hands, and forced Patrick Patterson, the underrated offseason signing by the Thunder, to the bench.
Melo playing power forward extends my concern even further. Is he gonna want to post up? Is he gonna think “I can iso-up these big guys?”. Melo at power forward is gonna lead to him wanting the ball even more, since the matchups he’ll be faced with will go in his favor. At three, he’d at least be faced with athletic wings. That would force him to play off-the-ball more.
And defensively? Melo can’t guard anyone at a high level at this point in his career. On that end of the floor, Patterson to Melo is a downgrade. He’s not defending anyone on the Warriors.
I understand what OKC did though. They grabbed a huge talent at a travesty of a price. Talent wins games in this league. Carmelo Anthony can put up 20 points a game with ease. Look at what Cleveland has done the past three years. You can’t tell me Kevin Love has fit in well. Yet, it wasn’t detrimental to their win totals and success.
With OKC though, it could be. Melo and Russ could be a complete disaster together, leaving Paul George in the Dion Waiters position, and George definitely bolting for the Lakers next Summer. It wasn’t exactly a high risk trade, but it’s certainly not a high reward.