Adding a superstar to another star player’s team always brings up a basic question: Who will take the last shot when the game is on the line?
Thanks to basketball executive Sam Presti, the Oklahoma City Thunder added not one, but two olympic players — Paul George and Carmelo Anthony — to play alongside Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was the MVP last year and is accustomed now to having the ball in his hands with the game on the line. But after adding George and Melo, will this change?
Royce Young of ESPN asked head coach Billy Donovan the question.
“Carmelo’s been a closeout guy the places he’s been, the same thing with Paul. But any time you have a team you have to do it by finding the open man,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
Melo, George, and Westbrook all have the ability to close out games on their own. However, all three players cannot shoot the ball at once. Who will sacrifice first and defer to someone else taking the last shot? Last year, George was vocal about taking the last shot when he didn’t get the opportunity to help his former team win the game. Melo took the clutch shots majority of the time in New York because their was nobody else on his team good enough to take the shot.
Young also asked George about how he feels about the potential conflict:
“All three of us are comfortable with whoever has that shot,” George said a couple of weeks ago. “…I trust Russ, I trust Carmelo, that they are going to do whatever is best for the team. I trust they are going to knock that shot down.”
George seems comfortable about letting his other two teammates take the last shot because of “trust.” Meanwhile, Melo told Young that whoever is open should get the last shot.
"Whoever's open. It's simple," Anthony said. "We'll run the play, and whoever gets open will take the shot. It's not like I'm coming and saying, 'I want the last shot,' or Russ is saying he wants the last shot, or Paul. Whoever's open will take the shot.
Don’t be surprised if you see OKC struggle early in the season as they hunt for the right scenario to get their all-stars open shots. Even the Golden State Warriors struggled last season to find who the clutch shot take at the end of the game. Just like OKC, the Warriors needed time, and when they figured it out, they became unbeatable.
The Thunder needs to find their identity and chemistry first before finding out who should take the last shot. A willingness to spacing the floor and moving off-ball will be a much bigger key for OKC in the late part of the game than settling on who gets the final look in a tight game.
Which player do you prefer to have the last shot in a close game?
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