It is finally over. The Carmelo Anthony-New York Knicks drama dragged on longer than the air strip scene from Fast & Furious 6, but a resolution was finally reached. Melo is not taking his talents to H-Town with his buddies Chris Paul and James Harden. He will not be heading to Cleveland. Nor will be heading to Portland to team up with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The lucky suitors are the OKC Thunder.
Sam Presti has gone all in on 2017-18 and you can’t blame him. The Thunder will send Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second round pick (via Chicago) to the Knicks in exchange for the future Hall of Famer, first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical.
To recap the Thunder’s offseason real quick–Presti has turned Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, and Victor Oladipo into Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. An impressive feat in itself but becomes even more impressive given the situation the Thunder face at the moment. Russell Westbrook has yet to sign an extension meaning he can still bolt at the end of the summer. George and Melo can also take their services elsewhere if things don’t work out.
For now they’re the league’s newest big three and easily the best core Melo or George have been apart of. OKC has now solidified its spot in the top four of the West on paper alongside the Warriors, Rockets, and Spurs. You could argue they have become the greatest threat to the Warriors but we have to see what this big three will look like first.
This isn’t Westbrook’s first rodeo with superstar teammates which is key since he is the quarterback. He, Kevin Durant, and James Harden were able to coexist so there is no reason this big three cannot do the same. And this time around Westbrook will know what having no one feels like. When he, KD, and Harden were wreaking havoc on the league none knew how good they had it. Now Westbrook and Harden understand the luxury of having two other guys to take some of the load.
One man can carry you to the playoffs but once you get there help is needed. Westbrook learned that the hard way as he fell in the first round despite going super saiyan for five games. With George and Melo by his side Westbrook doesn’t have to take on the world.
Westbrook and George can bring back an electricity to the open floor we have not seen since LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were playing NBA Jam with fools in Miami. Melo will be relied on later on in the season, particularly in the playoffs. Make all the Finals jokes you want, when the games slow down and you have to grind out halfcourt possessions there is a short list of guys I want. Melo is on that short list.
He can start games at the three or four depending how Billy Donovan wants to use George and Andre Roberson. They can go super big with Melo playing at the three or small and bump him up to the four. This will be crucial when matching up with the Warriors who seem to have a never ending variation of lineups.
What do the Knicks get in return? They do not get a fair return, something rarely accomplished when trading a star, but they did get something. Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott are not scrubs. Both are just 25 years old and both can become solid rotation members in New York.
Kristaps Porzingis is the new King of New York so everything must be filtered by how this benefits him. Kanter brings a similar skill set to starter Willy Hernangomez which is a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is his style is proven to fit alongside Porzingis and Kyle O’Quinn. Hernangomez had success playing alongside both so Kanter should be able to replicate that when he comes in off the bench.
McDermott will slot behind Michael Beasley at small forward and likely be asked to space the floor with his shooting. Through three seasons McDermott has not found his feet but he has also been stuck in Chicago and barely had a cup of coffee in OKC. Given time and a specific role McDermott should be able to find his way. His youth is his greatest asset after his shooting.
Playoff basketball is not a top priority in New York right now. The front office said over the summer they will go young and build through the draft. Every move they have made since then has followed that plan. Signing the 25 year old Tim Hardaway Jr. in the offseason and now acquiring two other 25 year olds in exchange for their 33 year old star.
Then there is the 2018 second round pick. On the surface it is nothing special but then you remember how bad Chicago is. They may very well be one of the three worst teams in the league. That means that pick will be at the top of the round allowing the Knicks to scoop up a first round talent who slipped through the cracks.
There were no losers in this deal. Similar to the Kyrie Irving trade a few weeks prior both teams got what they could. The Thunder improved their standing amongst the league’s elite while the Knicks finally started a new chapter.
The Carmelo era in New York had a lot of highs and is far from the disaster it felt like towards the end. It’s easy to forget what a trainwreck the Knicks were prior to Carmelo arriving. Now he leaves on good terms, something Patrick Ewing did not have the luxury of.
OKC will open its season Thursday October 19th in OKC. Their opponent? The New York Knicks. Can basketball season get here any sooner?