With The Carmelo Anthony Trade, Are The Thunder A Legitimate Contender?

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With The Carmelo Anthony Trade, Are The Thunder A Legitimate Contender?


As always, when a big trade goes down it needs dissecting, and this was a BIG trade in the league today, so let’s go.

With the Thunder acquiring Carmelo Anthony, have they now become a legitimate contender for an NBA championship? Many have jumped the gun, but let’s hold our horses for now.  Obviously, Melo is an unbelievable scoring talent and has been for some time now, so let’s firstly have a look at how he, along with Paul George and Russell Westbrook will look moving forward.


Let’s start with Westbrook. First and foremost, no, Westbrook is not going to average a triple-double again this season for a couple of reasons. His assists will still be there, and crazily enough could increase with the improved talent around him, but the Thunder have now acquired three solid rebounders in Patrick Patterson, Paul George and of course Carmelo Anthony (when he applies himself). This will reduce Westbrook’s rebounding numbers and the Thunder won’t mind too much either because a fast break can still occur with George or Anthony rebounding the ball and pushing it straight away. His scoring will also be effected. Understandably, his touches and overall usage rate will reduce, as both George and Anthony thrive in one on one situations and need the ball on the offensive end as well to get their shots. This may seem as a negative, but due to this, Westbrook has the chance to have the most efficient season of his career to date. He can do this by picking and choosing when he attacks and gets his points as well as finding the right balance to involve his new teammates as well. The latter has been an issue for him in previous seasons, so it will be a transition for him as well. With the improved talent, he will also remain fresher for longer this upcoming campaign. All in all Westbrook will still be an absolute monster, he will still have the ball in his hands most of the time, but will now have fire power around him to support him unlike last season.


With the acquisition of Carmelo, the situation for George becomes very interesting. Personally, I think it effects George the most out of any of the members of their big three for a couple of reasons. Firstly, George will now likely be the best defender on their strongest unit. During the big games in the playoffs, and if they happen to meet a Golden State, the Thunder will most likely have insert Patrick Patterson into the starting lineup instead of Andre Roberson. This isn’t because Roberson is a bad defender because he’s brilliant on that end, but because he is so bad offensively. Patterson gives them an improved offensive threat as well as being a capable defender on the other side. This leaves George as the best defender in the lineup, and he’ll have to guard the opposing player’s most gifted offensive talent. This could mean his role offensively is reduced, because it’s likely he will be exerting a lot of energy on the defensive end. This can be both a good and bad thing for the Thunder. Good because George is a great wing defender, but bad because he’s more efficient and arguably better offensively than Carmelo at this stage of their careers. It will be interesting to see how George fits in, but I’m projecting he will thrive nevertheless.


Carmelo will be asked to do what he does best – score the basketball. Melo is widely known as a poor defender, but I believe he will be more committed to that end of the floor this season, especially in the playoffs. People discredit Melo because of his defense, but what they don’t understand is he’s had to single handedly be the entire offense for most of his career. It’s physically exhausting to carry an offense and be a great defender, but with the pressure eased on him offensively, he can focus on improving on the other side of the ball as well. This doesn’t mean he will be great defensively, but his effort and rebounding numbers will likely increase. A lot has also been said about the ball dominant nature of Melo and Westbrook, and rightly so, which makes me wonder what his overall role will actually look like. Will he be a catch and shoot and sometimes iso player, or will he swing the ball around and try and facilitate more, which is actually and underrated part of his game if you watch Team USA Basketball and Knicks games consistently. When he wants to, he can actually pick a decent pass and it’s very interesting to me how he will be incorporated offensively.


All in all the Thunder have a legitimate big three and starting five. The big thing I worry about is their depth and ability to gel cohesively together. In the space of two off seasons they’ve swapped Kevin Durant for Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, which is a win in my estimations. The problem is now their surrounding pieces. Their depth could be a real issue, causing their starting five to play more minutes than they need to. Nevertheless the front office should be applauded for their continued brilliance, who are definitely one of the more underrated front offices in the association.

Unlike others, I’m not going to call them championship contenders just yet, as they’ll have to work out how to play together in an efficient and effective way to be a real threat. They have ball dominant talent who need to sacrifice and involve their teammate’s consistently for them to be successful long term. It cannot be a “my turn, your turn” offense, this simply isn’t going to get it done. Also, they must figure out who will be handling the ball down the stretch, or what they will run when meaningful games get close when it matters most. There are all factors that will determine how far they go.

As of right now, in my opinion, they’re just another great collection of talent in the West, but only time will tell if they reach their ceiling as a collective and transform into a serious contender to come out of the Conference.

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