Carmelo Anthony hype plane has finally landed and it stopped in Oklahoma City. Along with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook and swing man supreme Paul George, adding Anthony should be an interesting ingredient. Will Anthony’s acquisition be enough to match up against Oklahoma City’s championship core? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate.
FILE – In this March 27, 2017, file photo, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the Detroit Pistons during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in New York. The Knicks agreed to trade Anthony to the Thunder on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, saving themselves a potentially awkward reunion next week with the player they’d been trying to deal since last season. New York will get Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a draft pick, a person with knowledge of the deal said. The person spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been announced. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
Riley: We’ve been waiting on Anthony to land and he couldn’t have been put in a better position. The 2008 Boston Celtics model is still in play 10 years later with this move. A trio of big time scorers with two of the three equipped with point guard skills between Westbrook and George. If they can find the right puzzle pieces to surround their new power trio then they’ll challenge the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals next spring. The talent gap in the west has shrunken considerably with this move.
Green: Adding Anthony to the Thunder is like putting David Ruffin and Bobby Brown in the same singing group. Westbrook has always been the alpha dog on that team, and while George may fit into the second or third fiddle role nicely, it could be a tough adjustment for Anthony and Westbrook to make. Westbrook had issues sharing the ball with Kevin Durant and the latter just won Finals MVP after winning a few league scoring crowns along with a regular season MVP award. How will Westbrook embrace Anthony, a player known to come up short in the postseason? Windows don’t last long in sports anymore so the real question becomes can this team mesh in one season before both Westbrook and George becomes free agents in the ensuing summers and then build on that chemistry to upset a living dynasty in Oakland? Odds say no way.
Riley: What I like about the three being together is that they compensate for each other’s shortcomings. Skeptics have criticized George’s ability to close games but now he has two certified closers in Westbrook and Anthony. Anthony has been picked on for his defense, but his counterparts are two of the stronger defenders in the Association. The complaints surrounding Westbrook are plenty, but my biggest gripe with him last season was his lack of help, and now he has that.
Westbrook didn’t defer to Durant during their tenure. But, keep in mind a large reason why Durant left for the Warriors was so he wouldn’t have to be the lead dog anymore. Sure, he won the Finals MVP, but Golden State had so much firepower in that Finals matchup against Cleveland that it was almost easy for Durant to score at will. Things could be different for Westbrook now that he’s playing with players who legitimately want to be the man. I’m calling it now, OKC will top the Warriors next season.
Green: So now a patchwork OKC team is better than the defending champions who return with the bulk of their core? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We were just trying to figure out if they’ll be able to compete, but according to you, Riley, they’ll surpass expectations. That’s lofty goals for a team that will be introducing two new and huge pieces to the core of their team. I just don’t see it. And, we completely forgot about the San Antonio Spurs. I’m convinced the Thunder will be formidable but I just doubt they’ll have enough time in basically one year to mesh before free agency kicks in.