The New York Knicks have finally ended their tumultuous relationship with Carmelo Anthony, trading the 33-year-old forward to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick. A trade call is scheduled on Monday and Anthony is expected to join the Thunder for the start of training camp on Tuesday. Here are three takeaways.
The Melo era in New York ultimately disappointed … but it wasn't all his fault
Anthony's tenure in New York seemed destined to fail from the day he forced his way from the Nuggets to the Knicks in 2011, when New York gave up four players from their core group -- Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov -- in the deal. The Knicks won 54 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2013, while Anthony finished third in regular season MVP voting. The team missed the playoffs in Anthony's final four seasons in New York.
Aside from drafting Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks failed to surround Anthony with enough talent to be a playoff team under Phil Jackson, who cycled through head coaches, butted heads with his star player in public and admitted it was time for Anthony to move on after the end of last season, just weeks before Jackson parted ways with the franchise. For the past few seasons, every conversation surrounding Anthony has revolved around his no-trade clause and how the Knicks could move on from their star.
His numbers have declined in recent years, but Anthony still averaged 22.4 points in 74 games last season, and remains one of the best individual scorers in the league. In Oklahoma City, he will be free of the expectations of carrying a team without enough capable players on their roster to compete on a night-to-night basis. In the end, the Melo era in New York will be remembered for great individual moments -- like his 62-point game at Madison Square Garden in 2014 -- that were few and far in between, as the Knicks continue to be a franchise that has no clear path back to contention thanks to years of mismanagement and poor front office decisions.
The Thunder have assembled a legit contender … for one year
After Russell Westbrook's one-man show lead the Thunder to 47 wins but a quick playoff exit that showed the gulf that existed between Oklahoma City and the top teams in the West, general manager Sam Presti traded Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Kanter and McDermott to acquire Paul George and Anthony. The Thunder have significantly upgraded their roster, and now have plenty of five-man lineups that can be a terror on both ends of the floor.
George and Andre Roberson will be a fearsome defensive tandem on the perimeter, and alleviate some of the concerns about Anthony's defensive shortcomings. Billy Donovan can employ smaller lineups in crunchtime with Anthony at the four and Steven Adams at the five that will create problems for opposing defenses. The Thunder now project as a team that will win 50+ games and compete with San Antonio, Houston and Golden State to be the among the West's elite.
The only downside of winning this offseason is that the Westbrook-George-Anthony trio will likely be a one-year experiment. Westbrook has until Oct. 16 to sign a five-year extension worth over $200 million with the Thunder, which would kick in for the 2018-19 season on top of the $28.5 million he's already owed this season. If the deadline passes without a deal, the reigning Most Valuable Player will be an unrestricted free agent next summer along with George, who has made it clear the Lakers are his preferred destination in free agency. Anthony can also become a free agent after this season if he chooses to decline his $27.9 million player option for the 2018-19 season.
Re-signing all three players will be difficult for the Thunder. Per ESPN's Bobby Marks, the Thunder's payroll will approach $157 million with a $143 million luxury tax bill for the 2018-19 season if they bring back all three players. The Thunder did not tear down their roster to acquire George and Anthony, but they're also likely only going to reap the rewards of both of them for one season only.
There will be questions as to how OKC's Big Three will co-exist
Westbrook, George and Anthony were all clear-cut No. 1 options on their teams last season. Per NBA.com, among players who logged over 1,000 minutes during the 2016-17 season, Westbrook finished first in the league in usage rate (40.8 percent), while George and Anthony (29.0 percent) were tied for 20th. Like any team assembling multiple superstars on one team, there will be an adjustment period for all three as they figure out how to share the ball on offense.
A season after Westbrook put up triple-doubles on a nightly basis and dominated a team's offense on his own like we've never witnessed, he will have to figure out how to integrate two stars into the system with their own individual offensive styles. George profiles as a perfect No. 2 option alongside Westbrook, but the acquisition of Anthony mucks up that equation a little bit, as there will be concerns regarding spacing and figuring out how to get everyone comfortable within the offensive flow.
Simple matters of figuring out the hierarchy on offense will be important, especially for a team that knows there's a ticking clock on this grand experiment. There's reason to believe that this will work. Westbrook has experience playing Kevin Durant for many years, and saw the limit of how far the Thunder can go with him leading the team by himself last season. George is an unselfish player who will figure out how to maximize his value on the court on both ends of the floor. Anthony also realizes that there's a clear secondary role for him to play in Oklahoma City, and won't have the same expectations of being the ball-dominant player that he was in New York.
Once Westbrook, George and Anthony get acclimated with one another on the court, the Thunder have a ceiling that is as high as any other team in the league outside of the Warriors. All three players have tasted individual success, but are looking to redeem themselves in different ways by being part of a championship contender. How far the Thunder go this season will depend on how quickly they can figure it all out.