Thunder Complete Amazing Offseason By Swindling The Knicks For Carmelo Anthony

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

He did it again.

When no one saw the Oklahoma City Thunder coming, general manager Sam Presti swooped in and landed an on-the-trading-block All-Star that seemed destined for a more traditional basketball powerhouse.

This time, Presti landed Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks for a laughable price: big man Enes Kanter, wing Doug McDermott, and a Chicago Bulls second-round pick.

Sure, it’s (somehow) not as one-sided as the deal that brought Paul George to the Thunder, but this is a thievery in its own right on the part of Presti.

Kanter, while a good scorer and rebounder at center, is one of the worst defenders in the league, at the most important defensive position.

Head coach Billy Donovan all but removed Kanter from the rotation during the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Houston Rockets last season because of his repeated traffic cone impressions against the pick-and-roll—which is, unfortunately for Kanter and now the Knicks, the basis for just about every offense in the league.

He played less than 11 minutes total in the final two games of that series.

Kanter’s offensive abilities are still useful, but at his price tag—almost $18 million this season with a nearly $19 million player option the year after—OKC is probably ecstatic to get off his contract, regardless of the return.

McDermott was a prolific scorer in college, ending his career with the fifth-most points in college history. But he’s also an absolute turnstile on defense, and he hasn’t flashed much offense outside of his nice 39.4 percent shooting from three-point range in his three-year NBA career.

But he’ll be a restricted free agent in a year, meaning if he has a great season with the Knicks, he could become too expensive to keep. Or, if he still hasn’t shown significant improvement after four years in the league, the Knicks might still feel obligated to match another team’s offer just to keep him around.

In Carmelo, the Thunder have a third dynamic scorer, tripling their mark from last season. He’s used to having the ball in his hands a lot, but the times we’ve seen him act as a cog in an offense for a supremely talented team, as he was throughout his Team USA career, he’s been his best self—stretching the floor and feasting against defenses focused on other scoring threats.

Hopefully that means playing more power forward with the Thunder, where he’d be a matchup nightmare for almost any counterpart trying to lock him down.

Though not a great defender either, Carmelo is underrated on that end because his point prevention is nowhere near his level of point production. He’s not a lockdown defender on the wing, and he’s not a very good help defender, but when he’s engaged one-on-one defensively with a player close to the basket, Melo utilizes his strength, low center of gravity, and ability to resist pump fakes to be a solid low-post defender.

Sandwich his middling abilities on that end between defensive menaces in George and Steven Adams, and add his scoring to the likes of George and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, and you’ve got yourself another terrifying team in the Western Conference.

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