In what continues to be one of the most active offseasons in NBA history, to put the cherry on top, this past week New York Knicks Superstar Carmelo Anthony waived his No Trade Clause to allow for the Knicks to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a future second round pick.
Anthony will get to team up with fellow superstars Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
How Sam Presti continues to bamboozle GM after GM this offseason amazes me. While I understand that both players are low-value trade targets due to only having one year remaining on their contracts. However, to turn Domantas Sabonis, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Victor Oladipo, and a second round pick into two of the NBA’s premier small forwards in the game to form a big three in Oklahoma City is remarkable.
While one basketball may not be enough to accomodate three isolation-heavy players, the Thunder will never be short of offense.
The notion of the Western Conference being overwhelmingly stronger than the Eastern Conference continues to buid as Anthony’s return to the West bolsters another team into legitimate playoff contention.
While this idea that many hold may be true, the true narrative should be that it is just another team that can give the Golden State Warriors an extra game or two in the playoffs, that’s the real measuring stick.
Every move that teams make these days is either to try and match the firepower of the defending NBA Champions.
All throughout the Association, general managers capitalize on superstar migrations for their own iteration of super-team formations. However, each of them have glaring holes in their teams that, on paper, an almost unbeatable Warriors team can exploit.
The Houston Rockets, who now boast a background of Chris Paul and James Harden will most likely struggle in the playoffs when team begin to realize that their tertiary and quarternary options in Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon are streaky at best.
The Spurs, who return an aging core of players who are a shell of their former selves, are too reliant on their superstar Kawhi Leonard. And while Leonard looked the part in being able to pull off the upset after torching the Warriors in Game One last playoffs, many can just chalk it up to an off-night.
On the other side of the conference, in-fighting in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ front office (LeBron James) and the locker room (LeBron James) has led to a much diminished team of has-beens with their biggest acquisition being Derrick Rose and an Isaiah Thomas that has a deteriorating hip joint.
Kyrie Irving, who forced his way out of Cleveland, will lead a Boston Celtics team that may not even be ready to overthrow an old Cavaliers team. The Celtics are placing all their marbles in a guy who tries to be the smartest guy in the room by trying to incorrectly use words like he was reading off of a thesaurus. Do I need to mention that he believes that the earth is flat?
So what does this Carmelo-to-OKC deal really mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, essentially nothing much for OKC. They will eventually become a semi-contender that has a legitimate chance to beat other contenders in the Western Conference.
Then, in the event they get a chance to step in the ring with the Warriors where they will essentially only have merely a puncher’s chance. Translation: they win one game in a series that has the Warriors winning easily in five games.
However, what really matters is that each of these players will be be on expiring contracts this upcoming season and will have the option to jump ship should things turn out not the way that they imagined it to be.
For Presti and the Thunder, trading away middling assets like Oladipo, McDermott, and a defensive liability in Kanter for a chance to have a competitive season before a complete rebuild is better than trying to develop a roster that was a dead-end.
The only asset that Presti may have regrets about is Sabonis who projects to have a high ceiling. However in today’s impulsive NBA, there really isn’t much time or incentive for teams to develop non-superstar talent.
The Thunder made out like bandits because this move allowed for them to compete while cleaning the slate to do a complete overhaul of their team should these superstars leave after the season.
The wise thing for teams to do is to wait out this dynasty, wait for either contract disputes or locker room drama to break them up. This Warriors dynasty can match those of the Lakers of the early 2000’s featuring Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
The strategy these days is to collect draft capital, develop those potential superstars and when it is time, try to recruit superstars in their primes.
Full disclosure, I am a Lakers homer. Hear me out. With a young core of Brandon Ingram , Lonzo Ball, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr., these lakers are primed to make waves this upcoming season enough to entice the likes of two superstars to join the fold in 2018-2019.
Any combination of James, Westbrook, or George should be enough to form the next great dynasty.