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The WTLC ‘Welcome Carmelo Anthony’ roundtable discussion

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Melo is on his way; the WTLC staff weighs in on what we may be in for.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What was your initial reaction when you heard the Thunder had acquired Carmelo Anthony?

Mark Bruty: I’m excited. Not just for Carmelo Anthony the basketball player, but for what this means for OKC as a city and as a franchise. Having someone actively drop their no-trade clause is HUGE for the Thunder. We haven’t been able to land big name free agents, and have often struggled to put ourselves on the map – even with a contending roster – so this is big. Then it turned quickly to just how exciting this team is going to be.

R.K. Anthony: About the same as my reaction to the Paul George news. I dislodged the lock on my desk chair and almost crashed backwards to the floor!! In a word? WOW!! What a bookend to the most exciting off-season in Thunder history!! Please... anyone....I dare you.... call the Thunder cheap again! And to Colin Cowherd, the man that claimed that NO ONE wanted to play with Russell Westbrook:

David-Scott: Personally, I was STOKED. I got multiple texts from my brother, and as my phone was in the other room, the second I heard my phone ringing that ferociously I knew something big happened (similar occurrence to when PG got traded). Great news to Oklahoma City fans!

Joshua Broom, WTLC Managing Editor: When considering Presti’s June 30 decision to enter win-now mode this move makes linear sense, and I semi-expected it to occur. Ironically, the moving parts from OKC’s end (Kanter/McDermott) used to foster a deal for an explosive wing scorer were what I thought they might be.

And though I’m intrigued for this new era of Thunder basketball, I’m also a bit disappointed Enes Kanter will not be a part of it.

Normally upbeat, Kanter made no secret of his dejection after being traded from what he referred to as “Okla-home.” We can only hope Melo is half the community figure that Kanter was. But on-court, ahead of next season, the Thunder is now a bona-fide championship contender.

Dom Flaim: I’ll be totally honest, I got a weird feeling yesterday it might have an outside chance, but didn’t really expect it. I wasn’t home, but got an alert on my phone and instantly burst into hysterical laughter so that people around asked what happened. In all honesty OKC gave up next to nothing basketball wise (Enes is a loss but McDermott really isn’t) and gained a huge weapon at the starting PF spot. Just a great deal. At the same time I echo others that I feel for Enes. I really like the guy a ton and hope he kills it in NYC.

How do you imagine Melo will fit into Billy Donovan's offense? Does he start or come off the bench?

Mark Bruty: I think he starts at the four. 2Pat plays a reserve role and one of the OKC3 plays key minutes with the second unit. The Thunder played some really good basketball the year before last in terms of ball movement. Most players bought into what Billy D was trying to do and it largely worked. Last year was a bit of an anomaly, but with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on the roster now, it can be back to its best. I see a lot of open “catch and shoot” looks for Melo which is only going to benefit him and OKC.

R.K. Anthony: Physically, he looks great. Like my buddy Johnney Mason put it:

“Melo’s got his Denver bod back”

2Pat is still nursing that scoped left knee, so Melo is in the starting rotation to start camp. Patterson was a back-up in Toronto so-o-o-o, who knows for sure. Melo may take that spot and never give it back. One thing is for sure, it’s a “very very” nice problem for Donovan to solve.

Anthony’s catch-and-shoot 3-point numbers last season were almost 43% on 3.5 attempts per game. Just his presence on the perimeter will force teams to spread their defense and the Thunder would do well to make them pay any time they forget it.

Since the trade that brought Carmelo to New York 7 years ago, his best basketball didn’t come out at the Garden on a talent thin Knicks squad. His best game came wearing the red, white, and blue on 2 Olympic teams surrounded by the best talent the NBA had to offer.

While collecting his 3rd Gold medal in Rio, Melo became Team USA’s All-time leading scorer and proved once again that he can thrive without being his team’s primary weapon.

^^^^^Sure would look good in Carmelo’s trophy case^^^^^

David-Scott: There’s NO doubt Melo will be starting. He’s just too much of an asset not to start. If Billy can adjust his current system to allow the now “Big Three” of Oklahoma equal (or close to equal) shooting opportunities, then we shall see a scoring super structure. Melo’s been around long enough to know he’s coming onto a team of talented and ball hungry athletes, and hopefully will adjust his own play style to that.

Joshua Broom: I believe Anthony, at 33-years-old, will become an ideal sixth-man for the Thunder. Carmelo’s career 24.8 PPG average is the perfect replacement for the reserve offensive-firepower OKC surrendered to acquire the discontented 12-time All-Star.

Further, an Anthony-led reserve unit adds deeper lineup possibilities for Billy Donovan’s whiteboard. Along with creative minute staggering, a Carmelo-infused bench ensures Oklahoma City can boast at least one elite scorer throughout a full contest without sacrificing early defensive tone.

Finally, there’s an old adage about just one ball being available for ten hands. Even so, there will certainly be times when Donovan unleashes his “big 3” among back-pedaling defenses.

With an already versatile starting unit intact pre-Melo, Oklahoma City owns the luxury of choosing when to release its unified elite offensive triad.

Dom Flaim: My last major concern with the roster was the starting PF, which Melo covers instantly. Patterson is a solid player but mostly has been a bench contributor and ideally that’s where he should be. Melo moves him there and allows for a really interesting starting lineup considering there are now so many weapons on court. As for the offense, I don’t really know but the offense is not something complicated so I don’t know why it would be an issue. It’s not like they’re running the Triangle or something...

Melo is used to being the #1 guy, and he has some miles on his wheels. How will he take to playing a secondary role with limited minutes and touches?

Mark Bruty: Largely this is a mindset thing. We’ve seen “Olympic Melo” in action, where he has a team of talent on the floor with him – and he thrives. He’s never really had that during his NBA career – but he does now and THAT (along with his willingness to waive that no-trade clause) points to Melo being ready to take a “winning” role – whatever that may look like. Winning cures a lot of ills, and the Thunder figure to win. A lot.

R.K. Anthony: Carmelo said something after winning the gold medal in Rio that really resonated for me:

"Most athletes don't have an opportunity to say that they won a gold medal, better yet three gold medals," Anthony said. "I would be very happy walking away from the game knowing that I've given the game everything I have, knowing I played on a high level at every level: high school, college, won [a championship at Syracuse] in college and possibly three gold medals.

"I can look back on it when my career is over -- if I don't have an NBA championship ring -- and say I had a great career."

A little over a month ago he is resigned to the fact that 3 gold medals may very well be his legacy and today 2 months away from going head to head with the champion Warriors on a team that can look them eye to eye. He can and has altered his game on 3 Olympic teams. At 33, he has to know what is at stake and my money says he does everything in his power to make this opportunity work.

Joshua Broom: I’ll buck the trend and not compare an NBA team and season with an Olympic roster and tournament. That stated, I feel Carmelo recognizes his superstar window is closing, and as such he will be more willing to buy into a team-first concept.

Dom Flaim: Honestly I don’t see it as a concern. Melo was fantastic with Team USA, and I’d be more worried about it with Paul George than Melo. Given Westbrook and PG played some role in recruiting him it seems a non-issue to me.

Which of Melo's negative attributes could hurt OKC in the long run?

Mark Bruty: If OKC inherit the malcontent, ball stopping, ISO-Melo then we could be in trouble. I doubt that occurs, although anything is possible and we may see some of it in pockets throughout the year, but that is the only concern. He has been portrayed as selfish, but I have also witnessed him mold to fit the triangle offence which isn’t really his cup of tea. If people think he is washed up, they’re in for a rude awakening.

R.K. Anthony: That’s easy. I don’t care if it’s 1977 or 2017, defense wins championships and even with the addition of a player of his stature, there is still a gap between the Thunder and Warriors. A strong, uncharacteristic, defensive effort from Carmelo could help narrow it.

Not baring the burden of being his team’s primary offensive weapon every night may help that defensive effort as well.

David-Scott: His selfishness may play out negatively but after watching how well Russ and Melo get along with each other throughout this offseason, I think the coming season may be a great one for Melo.

Joshua Broom: As stated ad nauseam, Carmelo is a reputed ball-stopper. Adding to that dilemma, both Westbrook and George —especially the former— prefer working with ball in hand.

I feel OKC will benefit from keeping Russ and Melo primarily on separate units until perhaps cruch time. This, and defensive concerns, is why I suggest bringing Carmelo off the bench and intelligently staggering each All-Star’s court time.

Dom Flaim: The only things are that he’s a bit of a heavy ISO player and that he’s still got a massive contract. The prior worries me only because with Russ and PG the Thunder now have three guys who were in the top 11 in ISO possessions per game last year and all three used at least 17.5 percent of possessions that way. That said, all were in the 71st percentile or greater in ISO efficiency. It’s not ideal, but they can make it work especially if they’re staggered. As for the defense, I’d worry but they just traded Enes for the guy. I mean, it’s not getting worse.

Does adding Melo close the arms race with the Warriors?

Mark Bruty: Without a doubt. No disrespect to Kanter as he was a soldier for OKC, but Melo is an upgrade. Only slightly defensively, but he is a former superstar and perennial All-Star in this league. His ability to score the ball will be essential, but the flexibility and depth he brings to the lineup is of even greater value. It’s tough to close the gap on the Warriors, they are built to win the next 4 or 5 titles, but the Thunder have certainly put themselves in the discussion. Allowing 2Pat to go to the bench and allowing the second unit to have one of Melo/George/Russ running with them should avoid the drop off in production. If Alex Abrines develops and Steven Adams recaptures his playoff form from two years ago, we can take them in a best of seven.

R.K. Anthony: Close as in narrow the gap? Offensively, absolutely. Defensively, as an individual, mmmm, probably not, but let’s not forget that in the trade that brought him here, the Thunder eliminated a big, yet loyal, defensive hole at the foundation of the bench defense. By adding McDermott in the trade, the Thunder swapped two defensive liabilities for one. So all things considered, sure, even defensively. Just exactly how much that gap has been narrowed will depend on other factors other than just Carmelo Anthony, but as stated earlier, a strong defensive showing from Melo himself would be priceless.

David-Scott: Close the arms race? No. But adding Melo certainly will assist OKC in paving the way to be able to properly take on Houston and San Antonio. There’s no doubt the West is a freaking war zone, and the Thunder boys will have to play their hearts out if they want to play hand and hand with the Warriors.

Dom Flaim: Mostly what R.K. already said here. It “closes” the race in the same way that putting a band aid “closes” a gunshot wound. They’re just that good.

Joshua Broom: It gives OKC plausible hope, especially if an injury or other unforeseen bout of turmoil occurs in the Golden State empire. However, that is a euphemism to say, “no, but...”

What does this move mean for Westbrook and George after this season when both are free agents?

Mark Bruty: Again – winning means a LOT. If the Thunder can put together a season of big time wins, then it would be tough to leave. And the franchise has sent the message that it is willing to spend now that everyone is in their prime (Russ and George are, Adams will be soon and Melo is in “win now” mode). Everyone will point to the small market issue, but these guys all want to win a title. They have made big money during their career, they have endorsement deals out the wahzoo, but you can’t buy your way into the Hall of Fame or into the upper echelon of NBA Champion. So, I could honestly see this playing out like a Miami Heat scenario and if they can make the WCF or NBA Finals (or win it all) why would anyone leave?!!

R.K. Anthony:

Ask me in December.

David-Scott: I seriously see adding Melo as a way for Westbrook to sign pre-regular season. Going into training camp will be a rush for him, and Presti has done the more than any other GM this summer to prove to Russ he means business. As far as PG13, thats a different story. I’ve said from the beginning that the whole “LA dream destination” was rubbish. From what I can tell, George wants to win, and if we can get Russ to extend and have Melo show he’s interested in a long term solution as well, George would be grade-A insane to leave.

Joshua Broom: It means each now know their GM will pull out all the stops and break the bank to remain in contention, and that goes a long way in an uncertain market.

Look, there are few teams outside of Golden State which can now offer either Russ or George a greater competitive solution to the Warrors’ dominance. So, why uproot family and leave behind friends if the financials work out with OKC next summer.

Dom Flaim: I suddenly have slight hope the extension is signed by Russ now. Even if not, I’m just in for one insane ride this season. Presti may lose these guys, but man oh man if he’s not going down swinging.

Have the golden trades that GM Sam Presti has essentially spun from straw made him the favorite for GM of the Year honors this season AND will this summer finally put the Harden trade narrative to rest?

R.K. Anthony: I think at this stage that is obvious because he may have already been the front-runner even before the Melo trade. At this rate he may match Curry’s unanimous MVP vote year. If everything works out as I’m sure he hopes, he may steal GM of the Decade before he is done.

Unfortunately, the Harden trade narrative will never die. Time hasn’t softened it and facts seem to have no effect. It doesn’t matter that at the time the trade was made the Thunder ownership group was a fledgling outfit that lacked the financial resources to take the risks they are today, and the myth that the Thunder would have won multiple championships with 3 future HOF’ers is immune to both injuries and the fact that no matter how you slice it, the championship would have had to go through Lebron James no matter what happened on the Thunder’s side of the story.

No, it will never die, but in light of the trades this off-season it will fun to throw this summer in the face of anyone that accuses the Thunder of being cheap.

Joshua Broom: I think they have. Presti is invested in his legacy, as shown by his bold offseason dealings.

Concerning Harden: I think each season provides further emotional separation from his trade. Also, as James reached an apotheosis in Houston, which he never would have done in OKC, is it even fair at this point to not gauge his career by what he’s accomplished as a Rocket?

I feel most of Oklahoma City has moved on from Harden. The more lingering sense of loss now resides with Durant —but even that sentiment is fading in light of an unpredictable new era.

Dom Flaim:

The narrative that OKC has been cheap has somehow stood the test of time despite having one of the five largest payrolls a few years running now. People have either decided that the team is “cheap” or they’ve paid attention to what has actually happened and realized they’re not. For reference since the trade was in 2012, here are some things that if people want to use the Harden trade narrative they could also use:

  1. The Hornets were still the Bobcats.
  2. Derrick Rose was still “MVP Rose”
  3. Lebron had zero rings.