The dark horse team in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, the Oklahoma City Thunder, could help Anthony live up to his fullest potential.Let’s go back to the 10th day of August 2016. The United States Olympic Basketball Team found themselves in their toughest matchup of the Olympics against Australia. Kevin Durant and Paul George simply could not get it going, ultimately combining for only 19 points on 27 percent shooting. With Team USA’s two best forwards struggling, it was Carmelo Anthony who saved the day for the red, white and blue. Anthony poured in 31 points with nine three-pointers to lead Team USA to a 98-88 win over Australia.
Since 2008, Carmelo Anthony has been on three Olympic teams. And for the past 12 years, the basketball media has asked every four years why can’t Carmelo Anthony provide his NBA team the same Carmelo Anthony that impressed throughout the Olympics — the Carmelo Anthony who simply moves the ball, spots up for threes and wins games.
USA basketball has shown that Anthony does not need to be a team’s primary scorer anymore. As a matter of fact, he excels as a team’s second or third scoring option. What he needs is to channel that Team USA spirit and give us the same player who won three Olympic gold medals. Thankfully, a move from the New York Knicks, which at this point seems imminent, could give us this Anthony.
On Monday, Bill Simmons of The Ringer reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder could be a match for a Carmelo Anthony trade.
Have a scoop – OKC and Carmelo are officially circling each other. OKC's Troy Weaver recruited Melo to Cuse + has known him since DMV days.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 24, 2017
Pairing Anthony with the 2016-17 NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook, and recently acquired star Paul George can only mean a return of catch and shoot, Olympic-Anthony. After all, it is highly unlikely Anthony will be able to hold the ball playing with two players whose usage percentage exceeds his. Adding an excellent spot-up shooter like Anthony would have huge implications for the Thunder.
The Thunder are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA at 33 percent. This poor percentage certainly is not due to a low amount of three-point attempts, as the team still took the 18th most threes in the association. The players who shot the most threes last season, Westbrook and Oladipo, shot a combined 35 percent. Having two below average three-point shooters shoot that many threes is a recipe for disaster.
One would think pairing an excellent spot up shooter in Anthony with someone like Westbrook, who gets to the rim with ease, would be a tremendous addition for Oklahoma City.
Westbrook drives to the rim the fifth most often in the NBA and passes the sixth most among qualified guards (minimum 3 drives per game). The Thunder guard’s penetration would lead to an abundance of catch and shoot opportunities for Anthony, who shoots 41.8 percent on catch and shoot three-pointers.
Additionally, much like he did during his Team USA run, Anthony would add a tremendous finisher late in games to OKC, something OKC desperately needs. While Westbrook led the NBA in fourth quarter scoring he received little help from his teammates. Looking at every Western Conference playoff team, all but two teams had three players average more than four points per game in the fourth. One was the San Antonio Spurs and the other team was the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder were forced to rely on Victor Oladipo and his 3.7 fourth quarter points last season. Despite low scoring production from those not named Westbrook, the Thunder were able to avoid losing too many close games during the regular season with a 14-12 record in games decided by five or fewer points. However, their late-game scoring woes reared its ugly head in the playoffs.
In Game 2 of the Thunder’s playoff series against the Houston Rockets, Westbrook shot 4-18 in the fourth quarter. His teammates combined for seven total points as the Thunder blew a winnable game in Houston.
The Thunder need scoring help late in games, especially if Westbrook has off-nights, and Anthony would obviously help the Thunder in that regard. Anthony averaged 4.4 points in only a little under seven minutes a game in the fourth quarter last season. The addition of Paul George would also help the Thunder’s late-game scoring woes, but as previously stated, most playoff teams in the West had three guys who averaged more than four points per game in the fourth quarter. The addition of Anthony and George would give the Thunder the firepower they need to avoid having to ride solely Westbrook to the finish line.
While a trade away from New York could have large implications in the short-term it could also decide which Carmelo Anthony is remembered after he is finished with the game of basketball.
The NBA world has grown cold on Carmelo Anthony since being traded to New York. Once revered as a perennial NBA All-Star, Anthony is now more known for being a “coach killer” and a player more concerned with his financial gains rather than wins and losses.
But there is so much more to Anthony’s legacy, and we are reminded this every four seasons.
During every Olympics, Anthony reminds us why he is such a fun player to watch play the game of basketball. Seeing Anthony playing off the ball while hitting clutch shots from beyond the arc just like in the gold medal games he has played in throughout his career will remind us all the brilliance of Carmelo Anthony. Beyond this, it could help build his legacy as one of the most lethal off-ball players in recent memory.