Carmelo Anthony’s New York nightmare came to a sudden -– and surprising -– end on Saturday when the Knicks traded the ten-time All-Star to the Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a second-round draft pick. Oklahoma City had not been among Melo’s preferred destinations until very recently, and he had to waive his no-trade clause and his $8.1 million trade kicker to facilitate the deal. Yes, you read that correctly. Anthony actually paid money to leave Madison Avenue and move to a city where many people have more belt buckles than hair follicles. (I’m not saying they’re all bald; I’m saying they have a lot of belt buckles.)
Anthony will now team up with 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and three-time All NBA Third Teamer Paul George for his first bona fide shot at a title. Never before in his professional career has Anthony been flanked by so much talent or been required to do so little heavy-lifting to elevate his team. “Russ was a big reason why I wanted to come here,” he told reporters during OKC’s Media Day on Monday. “To see his loyalty to the city, to this organization, what he was able to do on the court. I wanted to be a part of that.”
This weekend’s trade may have been between the Knicks and Thunder, but it has implications that go far beyond both franchises. Let’s examine the true winners and losers from the blockbuster transaction, and set the odds on how things will shake out now that Melo has changed zip codes.
So much for there being no second acts in American lives. Anthony will have a chance to prove his critics (and F. Scott Fitzgerald) wrong in OKC, where he’ll team up with Westbrook and George to form one of the most potent trios in NBA history. This is easily the most talented NBA roster Melo has been part of, and it presents him with his best chance of winning an elusive championship. If he does, he’ll be able to rewrite his personal narrative and prove that his lost seasons in New York were due to mediocre teammates and poor management, instead of his supposedly eroding skillset. Even Fitzgerald would approve of an ending like that.
Odds Carmelo Anthony will win his first NBA championship in 2017-18: 12/1
The OKC Thunder
The Thunder still won’t be favored to knock off the Golden State Warriors, but they’ve certainly narrowed the talent gap. Bovada bumped up Oklahoma City’s title odds from +2500 to +1200 following the trade and sportsbooks clearly believe that Melo can be a major difference-maker. The question for OKC is what version of Melo will they get? Will they get the selfish, morose star who dribbles the air out of the ball and breaks out in hives when he’s asked to play defense? Or will they get Olympic Melo, the team-first playmaker who moves the ball, bangs the glass, and is automatic from behind the arc? The answer to that question will determine whether the Thunder are competing in the Western Conference Finals in June.
Odds the Thunder reach the 2018 Western Conference Finals: 3/2
Donovan was inadvertently thrust into a social-media soap opera last week when Kevin Durant blamed the OKC coach for his departure. KD later apologized for his statements, but the damage was already done. Oklahoma City fans started wondering aloud if Donovan really had pushed out the greatest player in franchise history, and whether he was just another college coach who didn’t understand the pro game. The three-time SEC Coach of the Year will now get a shot at redemption. The Melo trade ensures that Donovan has all the tools he needs to prove to the world -– and Durant –- that he has a deep knowledge of Xs-and-Os and an ability to relate to modern pros.
Odds Billy Donovan will win the NBA Coach of the Year in 2017-18: 8/1
It’s no secret that Melo and Kristaps Porzingis didn’t get along. Their tense relationship reached a boiling point late last season when Anthony “lit into” the lanky Latvian after he spoke glowingly about the team’s Triangle offense. Now that Anthony is gone, Porzingis should have a little more breathing room and a lot more freedom on offense. New York isn’t likely to run any Triangle sets now that Phil Jackson is gone, but they will be able to create more flow without having to worry about the ball sticking in Anthony’s hands. That gels with KP6’s many strengths and should lead to his first of many All-Star appearances.
Odds Kristaps Porzingis makes his first All-Star team in 2017-18: 1/6
(I know those odds look uber-short, but seriously, have you seen who’s left in the Eastern Conference?)
Here we go again. It seems every three-to-five years the Knicks hire a new executive to clean up the mess of the previous regime. Donnie Walsh was hired to clean up after Isiah Thomas; Glen Grunwald was hired to clean up after Donnie Walsh; and Phil Jackson was hired to clean up after Glen Grunwald. The Herculean task of digging the Knicks out of their current morass falls upon Steve Mills, who has already begun unravelling the damage done by Jackson. Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose, and Sasha Vujacic are all gone, and now Melo has been shuttled off as well. It’s a start, but the Knicks are still a mess. The team owes Joakim Noah $55.5 million over the next three seasons and failed to get nearly enough for Melo. Kanter needs a GPS to find his way around on defense; McDermott ranked dead-last in the NBA last season in Defensive Real Plus-Minus; and the second-round pick was little more than a throw-in. The Knicks will eventually make their way out of the cellar, but they’re going to bump headfirst into a lot of walls before they do.
Over/under Knicks’ win total in 2017-18: 29.5
Phil Jackson’s official job title with the Knicks may have been President of Basketball Operations, but unofficially he served as Melo’s anti-PR agent. The 72-year-old took an almost perverse delight in besmirching his star’s name every chance he got. Jackson repeatedly questioned Melo’s heart and desire, and publicly petitioned for the team to trade him this past April. “We’ve not been able to win with him on the court,” Jackson told reporters following the team’s exit interviews. “I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else.”
Jackson still has all of his championship rings, but his legacy for modern fans will be as the crusty old guy who chased Melo out of New York and drastically reduced his trade value.
Odds Phil Jackson will write a tell-all book about Carmelo Anthony: 4/1
The Thunders’ gain is ultimately the Rockets’ loss. Melo clearly wanted to go to Clutch City, and James Harden and Chris Paul were both highly vocal in their desire to play with him as well. At the end of the day, they simply lacked the pieces to get the deal done. The Knicks weren’t interested in getting saddled with the three years and $61 million remaining on Ryan Anderson’s contract, and Houston had little else to offer after handing over half its roster to the Clippers. Not surprisingly, Bovada dropped Houston’s title odds from +900 to +1600 after the trade was formalized.
Odds the Rockets reach the 2018 Western Conference Finals: 5/2
This probably isn’t how Doug McDermott imagined his career unfolding. The Creighton grad is now on his third team in three years after leading the nation in scoring in 2014. Dougie McBuckets can still shoot with the best of ‘em, but he has yet to crack a regular rotation and has averaged only 20 minutes per game over two seasons. He isn’t a lost cause just yet, but it’s never easy for young players to deal with so much tumult and uncertainty so early in their careers.
Over/under minutes-per-game for Doug McDermott in 2017-18: 25.5
Yes, Kristaps is both a winner and a loser in this deal. While Melo may not have been a great teammate, he was an extraordinary lightning rod. So long as he was in New York, he got the blame for the team’s worst losses and most shameful displays of ineptitude. Porzingis will now be the goat. As the team’s leader and undisputed best player, he’ll have to shoulder the blame when the Knicks lose over and over and over again. He may never fully miss Anthony, but he’ll certainly come to appreciate just how difficult it was for him to be the Knicks’ figurehead during so many lost seasons.
Odds Kristaps Porzingis will have a public meltdown in 2017-18: 20/1