Thoughts on Melo to OKC
After months of rumors, Carmelo Anthony is no longer on the New York Knicks. The majority of the rumors surrounding Melo were with the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Portland Trailblazers, and at one point, a trade to the Rockers appeared to be “on the two-yard line”. Three months after the near-deal with Houston, Melo was shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2nd-round draft pick.
Melo will be joining a rebuilt Thunder team that has also acquired Paul George from the Pacers. This addition officially makes them a “Big 3” in what will be a conference full of talent. I thought that the Thunder gave up a decent amount for Carmelo, but I question whether or not that this was the best offer on the table. I find it hard to believe that a team like Portland was not willing to give up more than what OKC did. Carmelo Anthony did have to waive his no-trade clause in order to be traded, and that played a factor in the return the Knicks were able to receive.
This move should help the Thunder be more competitive in the West, but it does not move them past the Golden State Warriors. I think that they are now better than the Houston Rockets, and maybe just as good as the Spurs, but the Warriors are still on another level. Russell Westbrook will still have the team revolve around him, as he is the reigning MVP, but I have a feeling that as the season progresses, that Melo and PG will become frustrated in being secondary options in the offense.
Russell Westbrook is an extremely ball-dominant point guard, and his career usage rate is 32.6%, which is incredibly high, but his usage rate last year, which was his best year, was 41.7%. I do not see him being able to relinquish control of the ball more now, because even when he had another star in Kevin Durant, he still led the league in usage rate with 38.4% in 2015.
Now, Paul George had famously stated during the 2017 postseason that he wants to be the guy taking the last shot, and his usage rate shows this, as his career rate is 25.8, but in all fairness, George has never played with another star, so it is unknown how his game will change when he has other legitimate options on offense. Carmelo on the other hand is a whole different animal, he has a usage rate similar to Westbrook at 31.4%, and he has had other stars to play with, so I do not imagine his game changing much. Carmelo Anthony will also be 33 years old, so I imagine that we will see him begin to decline. It is important for OKC fans to remember that you aren’t getting Hoodie Melo, or Olympic Melo, you are just getting regular 33-year old Carmelo Anthony.
As a ball dominant point guard, most of Westbrook’s assists come from plays when he drives to the hole and is swarmed by the other team, so he can kick it out to an open shooter, so if you can put two-and-two together, that means that PG and Melo will have to transition to the role of spot up shooter, and in that lies a problem. Both PG and Melo have combined to shoot over 40% from beyond the arc thrice in their combined 23 seasons. Paul George is the better career three-point shooter at 37% to Melos 34%, but neither of these is good enough to keep up with the shooters on Golden State.
Let's look at Golden State really quickly for some comparison. Steph’s three point percentage is 43%, Klay’s is 41%, and KD’s is 37%, so while OKC will rely primarily on drives to the hoop and mid-range jumpers, Golden State will be shooting threes, so the match-up still is not great. Collectively, the Warriors have far better players on defense, including reigning DPOY Draymond Green. Carmelo Anthony is not a good defender, and Russell Westbrook isn’t either, so while the Thunder have the potential to score a lot of points, they do not have good enough defense to stop opposing offenses, especially great ones like Golden State, Cleveland, or Houston.
Overall, I understand why OKC made the move, I do not think it will help them all that much in the long run, and they will still not be able to beat Golden State.