The Oklahoma City Thunder were a team that was a one-man show last season. Russell Westbrook made baskets, created baskets and essentially willed them to wins each and every game. With a team that had solid defense but not much shooting or anyone else to create offense, it was amazing that Westbrook was able to do what he did and lead them to the playoffs. While his feat was great, the Thunder’s finish last season was not as great as they hoped it would be. The Thunder went to the playoffs and promptly were beaten in five games by the Houston Rockets in the opening round. Russell was Russell, but he was just not enough to overcome a better team in the Rockets. From there, the Thunder knew they had to make something happen for their team to be better. Many wondered would they even be able to get anything done to give Russell some help and then they pulled off a trade that many did not expect to see, landing them Paul George and shipping out shooting guard Victor Oladipo and big man Domantas Sabonis. Who would know that was only the first move they would make though? The Thunder recently were able to convince Carmelo Anthony to waive his no-trade clause to come to Oklahoma City and the Thunder were able to send back center Enes Kanter, wing player Doug McDermott and a second-round pick. With that being complete, now you have Melo, PG13 and Westbrook all on one team to try and make it happen. But how is this one going to work?
Melo has been known as a scorer for pretty much all his career. He can shoot from midrange, play in the post and he can also shoot from three-point range. With him added to the Thunder, Oklahoma City now has two players in he and George that can spread the floor more than what the Thunder could last season (Thunder were last in three-point shooting last season). Because of Anthony and George’s shooting ability, expect more lanes for Westbrook to attack the rim and when teams decide to help off of him, then look for Westbrook to find the open man (provided he isn’t driving to the rim with his head down). The combination of these three together likely means that Melo will be playing the power forward position some and for those that don’t remember, that is when he had his most success with the Knicks (2012-2013 season). They went to the playoffs that season and made the Conference Semifinals before losing to the Indiana Pacers. Melo can play the power forward position because of the small ball style in today’s NBA and because of how he could spread the floor. With the makeup of this team, there is also the potential that you could see Olympic team Melo as he is not the main weapon on this team and not as much attention will be paid him as it is Paul George and Russell Westbrook. He essentially could play off both stars and get plenty of open shots, which he never saw in New York. Having Melo as a third offensive option is definitely something better than what Oklahoma City had before.
While the spacing on the offensive floor and adding more offense to this team in general is a positive with Melo, there is unfortunately some negatives that are seen to this deal. The Thunder have now put a lot of pressure on starting center Steven Adams. As good of an offensive player that Melo is, he not as good of a defensive player. With potentially sliding him to the power forward position, the Thunder could suffer some with their rebounding. If that is the case, then that could hinder them getting out on the fast break and getting easier attempts there. The whole team will have to help compensate for that potential shortcoming. Another obvious issue with this team as currently constructed is how all three stars co-exist. George, Westbrook and Anthony are all used to having the ball in their hands a lot and shooting the ball the most of anyone. They all are going to have to sacrifice something. The question is will they all be willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team? That will be something worth watching when it comes to this collection of talent.
The Thunder definitely surprised a lot of people by pulling off this trade for Anthony. While he gives them some things that can help, he also does a few things that will hurt them. The thing Oklahoma City will have to find is the balance between how to cover the blemishes but allow Melo to shine. With limited time to make that happen, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has to figure something out because the beginning of the season is coming real soon. It should be interesting to watch what happens with the Thunder this year and beyond because essentially Melo and Paul George are on one-year deals in Oklahoma City right now.
The General Mike Patton is an up-and-coming writer from Nashville, TN who brings a fresh and non-biased opinion about sports. From his radio experience in Nashville to his time as a sports writer for Free’s World, the website for radio personality and former co-host of BET’s 106 and Park Free (www.freesworld.com), The General is definitely one you want to get to know in the sports world. You can catch his work on SPORTSAWAKENING.COM. Mike grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Cubs and remains a passionate sports fan who expresses intelligent opinions.