INSERT SECOND TWEET IMAGE HERE.
So… this one’s not looking good right now is it? Let’s make it look worse.
Paul George was acquired for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, two players that the Thunder already had before Durant left. Carmelo Anthony was acquired for Enes Kanter—who the Thunder had before Durant’s decision—Doug McDermott, and a second-round pick—two players they likely would have acquired anyway.
Theoretically, Durant could have played on a team with Westbrook, George and Anthony without having to jump on the Warriors bandwagon. He could have had his championship team in Oklahoma City.
And the best part? That championship team might still be in Oklahoma City. Durant just isn’t on it.
The Warriors have no answer for Westbrook. That was true in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, and it’s true now. He is the one and only player in all of basketball that can make them look slow.
George and Andre Roberson are two of the best defenders on Earth for specifically stifling Durant and Stephen Curry. In fact, with Patrick Patterson quietly signed during the offseason, the Thunder could play him at center and switch 1-5 with Westbrook, George, Anthony and Roberson in the lineup. They could out-Warriors the Warriors on defense.
The Warriors will be favored in this or any other series because they’re the most talented team in NBA history. But this group is the most talented team in Thunder history, more so than any team Durant was on. Or James Harden, for that matter.
For the first time in the team’s history, it has three superstars in or near their prime. Toss in a top-10 center, a top-10 perimeter defender and a player in Patterson whose not top-10 at anything but has no real weaknesses as a player and it’s probably the deepest Thunder team 1-6 that has ever existed. They’ll need to find one more big and one more shooter between now and February, but top-to-bottom, this is the best team that Oklahoma City has ever had.
And the Knicks handed it to them for free. It wasn’t a bad decision, per se. The Knicks needed to tank and couldn’t do so with Anthony on the roster. Chicago’s second-round pick in 2018 will be at the top of the round. Doug McDermott will provide useful spacing. Kanter… well… Kanter has a shorter contract than Ryan Anderson.
That might seem like a lousy reason to pass up what was probably a better overall offer from the Rockets. With Tim Hardaway Jr. and Joakim Noah destroying New York’s cap space until the sun goes supernova billions of years from now, what was the harm in throwing Anderson’s contract on top of the pile?
There probably wasn’t any. But what ultimately matters is that Anthony is gone and the Knicks can move on. Maybe they just preferred Oklahoma City’s inferior offer, like Indiana reportedly did when waiting for two weeks would have probably gotten them substantially more from the Celtics. Or maybe they just wanted to screw over the Rockets, like the Pacers actually did with the Lakers and Cavs because apparently teams don’t take too kindly to star players attempting to dictate their destinations.
Whatever the case, Sam Presti has pulled off a legendary offseason coup. Oladipo and Kanter were contracts that the Thunder likely would have dumped for free if given the opportunity. They turned those two, a second-round pick, an unimpressive rookie and a borderline rotation player into two stars. He took a team that many (myself included) believed should have tanked after losing Durant and turned it into a better version of what it had before.
But most importantly? He took a team Durant spurned and turned it into his greatest threat. Winning a championship would be sweet for any team. Humiliating Durant on the road to doing so would be the sweetest moment any NBA team has ever had.