Are Thunder Better, Worse or Same Without Carmelo Anthony?

Monday, July 23, 2018 12:06 PM UTC

Monday, Jul. 23, 2018 12:06 PM UTC

It’s not often an NBA team gets better after dumping a future Hall of Famer, but the Oklahoma City just might be for that exact reason in the 2018-19 season.

<p>Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, one of the most aggressive GMs in the league, made two big trade gambles last offseason: sending Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to New York for All-Star Carmelo Anthony, and shipping Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana for All-Star Paul George.</p><p>At the time, it was thought the George deal was much riskier because even though he was a far superior player to Anthony at this point in their careers, Presti gave up two potentially good young players for a guy who could walk in free agency (presumably for the Lakers) following the 2017-18 season.</p><p>As it turned out, the George trade worked out great because he decided to re-sign with the Thunder this summer. Anthony, meanwhile, was essentially a bust and now his time with Oklahoma City is over after Melo and a 2022 protected first-round pick were dealt to Atlanta (which bought him out) in a three-way trade that netted OKC point guard Dennis Schroder of the Hawks and 76ers forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.</p><p>The biggest benefit for Oklahoma City here was financial; the team’s projected luxury tax bill drops from $150 million to $88.8 million, saving them more than $61 million. I won’t go into all that, but it was better for the Thunder to trade Anthony and his $27.9 million contract than to simply waive him.</p><p>So what does this move and others this offseason mean for a club that finished 48-34 last year (ugly 34-47-1 ATS in <a href="" rel="nofollow">NBA betting</a>) and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Utah?</p><p>[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "&lt;blockquote class=\"twitter-tweet\" data-lang=\"en\"&gt;&lt;p lang=\"en\" dir=\"ltr\"&gt;Carmelo Anthony's player efficiency rating was at its peak in 2012-13 when he ranked 4th in the NBA behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;Since then? Well... &lt;a href=\"\"&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;— ESPN Stats &amp;amp; Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) &lt;a href=\"\"&gt;July 19, 2018&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;\n&lt;script async src=\"\" charset=\"utf-8\"&gt;&lt;/script&gt;\n"}[/]</p><h2>Addition By Subtraction</h2><p>You don’t often dump a future Hall of Famer like Anthony and get better, but the Thunder probably have. The former scoring champion averaged career-low numbers with just 16.2 points per game while shooting only 40.4 percent from the field last year. In the six-game loss to the Jazz, Anthony was a detriment as he averaged 11.8 points in the series, shooting just 37.5 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from 3-point range.</p><p>On ESPN’s player efficiency rating, Anthony’s regular-season number was 12.78. That ranked 224<sup>th</sup> in the NBA. Just for a point of reference, guys like Noah Vonleh, Quinn Cook, Tyler Cavanaugh, Frank Mason III and Jonas Jerebko all ranked higher. They are all scrubs. Anthony is simply a ball hog who can’t shoot well from the field any longer and is an absolute disaster defensively. At Basketball Reference, Melo had a defensive plus/minus of minus-1.9, a box score plus/minus of minus -3.8 and value over replacement player of minus-1.1. So, no, not a loss.</p><p><a href=";book=5dimes" rel="nofollow">5Dimes is the first of SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks</a> that I’ve seen to list some 2018-19 NBA win totals and OKC is at 48, right where it finished last year. The ‘over’ is a -135 favorite.</p><p>Schroder (19.4 ppg, 6.2 apg) is a fine pickup who should anchor the second unit. He could serve in a role much like Reggie Jackson did for OKC before forcing a trade to Detroit. Coach Billy Donovan wants his team to play faster this season and that’s Schroder’s game. Just imagine he and Russell Westbrook on the court together. Scary fast offensively … but scary bad defensively.</p><p>Keep in mind that the Thunder also will get starting guard Andre Roberson back after he missed final three months of the 2017-18 season due to a knee injury. He’s one of the best defensive players in the NBA and the quartet of Westbrook, George, Roberson and Steven Adams had one of the highest four-man ratings in the NBA. The Thunder also re-signed underrated power forward Jerami Grant (he’ll start in Anthony’s spot) and boosted their bench with the addition of Nerlens Noel. He can’t do much offensively and sometimes needs motivation but can block shots and rebound.</p><p>Are the Thunder contenders in the West? Certainly not and they are +3850 to win it on the NBA futures. The West is going to be ridiculous, even tougher this season with LeBron James in it – although Kawhi Leonard is now in the East. I honestly don’t see the Lakers better than OKC right now, yet L.A. is just +550 to win the conference. That’s the LeBron effect.</p><p>Long story short, I do believe this team with good health <a href="" rel="nofollow">can win 50 games</a> and with some luck reach the conference finals – where it loses to Golden State.</p><h2 style="text-align:center">Free NBA Pick: Over 48 Wins</h2><h2 style="text-align:center">Best Line Offered: <a href=";book=5dimes" rel="nofollow">5Dimes</a></h2>
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