Carmelo To Thunder Poses Threat To Warriors

By Jason Gonzalez

With the NBA season set to begin in less than three weeks, the Golden State Warriors have positioned themselves as the clear front runners to repeat as champions. But in the world of sports nothing is guaranteed, competition can hinder the certain from happening.

Since adding the 10-time all-star Carmelo Anthony to their roster, the Oklahoma City Thunder have now established themselves as the biggest threat to the Warriors, which could prevent them from going to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

Just a week ago, general manager Sam Presti pulled the trigger on a trade that brought the 33-year-old Anthony from the Knicks to the Thunder for Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter. It’s obvious which team got the better end of this deal. Anthony, who averaged 24.7 points per game during his tenure in New York, now joins the reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook and the 4-time all-star Paul George, who was acquired this summer from the Indiana Pacers for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Can you think of another general manager that had the off-season that Presti had? As it stands now, at the Thunder’s core is Westbrook, Steven Adams, Anthony, and George. Add in the solid defenders Andre Roberson and Patrick Patterson, and the Warriors-Thunder rivalry is alive and well.

But is this roster good enough to beat the Warriors? Only time will tell. But one thing for sure is, barring injury, the Warriors-Thunder match-up is as good of a seven-game series as you will get in the Western Conference playoffs.

But the Thunder weren’t the only team in the conference to upgrade. The Houston Rockets added Chris Paul during the off-season to complement superstar James Harden. However, by bringing Paul, he is now the point guard, moving Harden over to the shooting guard slot. Harden is more suited for the point.

The combination of Paul-Harden may not work due to them not gelling together. The Minnesota Timberwolves brought the Warrior “killer” himself Jimmy Butler on board to play with big man Karl Anthony Towns. A good fit, no doubt, but it isn’t enough to get pass the defending champs.

When it matters most, there’s no substitute for experience. Lastly, the San Antonio Spurs will just remain as a thorn on the side of the Warriors and nothing more, assuming that Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

The Warriors received little resistance in sweeping their way to the championship series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Thunder can implement the chemistry warranted to add “W’s” in the win column, then they by far are the second best team in the conference.

Anthony may be on the downside of his career, has just enough in the tank to alter his game to benefit Westbrook and George. If Anthony can give the Thunder 20 points and 7 rebounds a night, Coach Billy Donovan will be more than content. And those 47 wins from last year should increase by either 5 or 10 games.  

Any concern regarding Anthony’s lack of defense should be mitigated playing alongside Roberson and George.

Anthony will also have to transition from being the offensive focal point, to either the second or the third fiddle. Make no mistake about it, the Thunder is Westbrook’s team, and it is contingent upon him to deviate from the “alpha-male mentality that he has exhibited many times in the past. Hence the reason why he had issues with Kevin Durant.
It seems that both Anthony and George are willing to sacrifice touches and isolation opportunities to score in order to function as a cohesive unit. But is Westbrook on board with this philosophy expected to be enforced by Donovan? Be it as it may this is the template for the Thunder’s offense to work.

It’s possible that Westbrook has matured thus learning from his mistakes in the past. Hopefully, Westbrook can trust his teammates enough to be will be willing to slightly relinquish control of the offense for possessions at a time, now that he has better supporting cast.

The Thunder now have the shooters, the defenders, as well as a post presence to present the Warriors with their firmest challenge, which will be taking place in the Western Conference Finals.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email