The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off their second blockbuster trade of the summer Saturday, acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a draft pick, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. OKC is now firmly in the arms race to challenge the Warriors in the West, putting together a potent squad that should be able to compete offensively with the Dubs and new-look Rockets.
For the Knicks, trading Melo ends a years-long saga of his discontent in New York. His tenure in NYC will be remembered mostly for the lows as opposed to the brief highs. Let’s grade the deal for each team.
This is a steal for Sam Presti, who has acquired two stars on the dirt cheap this offseason. Anthony is aging and isn’t the scorer he was only a couple seasons ago, but he will be cast perfectly as a third option in OKC. Anthony will feast on catch-and-shoot opportunities created by Paul George and Russell Westbrook, and he’ll find much more room to operate as defenses focus their attention on his teammates. Anthony has never played with two players as polished offensively and firmly set in their primes as George and Westbrook. As long as he is willing to accept a reduced role, Anthony should thrive with the best running mates of his career.
Beyond acquiring Anthony, the Thunder parted with negligible assets in the deal. Simply getting rid of Kanter’s contract is a win for the team. Kanter had his moments with the Thunder, but his lack of defense made him tough to keep on the court in the playoffs. Anthony’s defense isn’t as bad, and the Thunder can now play five-man lineups that have much more shooting than their bricky lineups of postseasons past. (A Russ-Andre Roberson-George-Melo-Patrick Patterson unit already sounds very intriguing.)
Is this really the best New York could do? We’ve asked that of numerous teams this offseason, but contenders were seemingly desperate enough to acquire Anthony that he should have fetched more than a second-round pick, an overpaid center, and a middling prospect. The pick may end up being the best part of this deal. Kanter’s contract owes him over $17 million this year, and he has a player option for next season. (The Knicks will pay Kanter and Joakim Noah over $35 million combined in 2017–18!) Meanwhile, McDermott hasn’t proven he can stick in an NBA rotation yet. His shooting is offset by his defense—opposing teams score much better when McDermott is on the court.
New York had ample opportunity to trade Melo over the last year or two. His no-trade clause restricted them to a degree, but the staring contest between Anthony and former president Phil Jackson probably hurt his trade value more than anything else. At least the trade provides a clean break for New York, who can now fully prepare to rebuild around Kristaps Porzingis and move on from the Melo era. This is a hell of a price to pay to end the relationship, however.