Anthony move installs Thunder as contenders

NEW YORK • After scoring more than 10,000 points for five coaches over seven seasons without all that much to show for it, Carmelo Anthony is finally leaving New York. The New York Knicks on Saturday agreed to trade one of the league's great offensive players to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round draft pick, according to a league official briefed on the negotiations.

The deal will allow the 10-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star to join forces in Oklahoma City with two other marquee players - Russell Westbrook, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, and Paul George, a four-time All-Star.

The trio will arguably make the Thunder favourites to face NBA champions Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals next spring.

But there is a very real chance this may only be a one-year arrangement. Westbrook, George and Anthony all have options on their contracts at the end of the season, which could theoretically leave Oklahoma City in a position where they will have to completely start over a year from now if all three walk as free agents next summer.

Even if they do want to stick around, ESPN's Bobby Marks calculated it would cost the Thunder US$310 million (S$417 million) in combined payroll and luxury taxes to re-sign all three players, if Westbrook and George re-sign on max contracts and Anthony opts into his US$27.9 million contract for another year.

Still, Oklahoma City can deploy a starting line-up in the new season featuring Westbrook, Andre Roberson, George, Anthony and Steven Adams. Those players have offsetting strengths and weaknesses that should allow them to work quite well together.

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  • The Thunder now have three of the top nine isolation scorers from last season:

    2 Russell Westbrook: 486 points

    4 Carmelo Anthony: 386 points

    9 Paul George: 282 points

  • Top of the list was Houston Rockets' James Harden with 537 points.

Anthony has been at his best in recent seasons playing as a small-ball power forward. Now he will get to do so next to man-mountain Adams, precisely the kind of burly, physical centre to deploy next to a smaller power forward. And with two elite wing defenders in Roberson and George next to Anthony and Westbrook, the Thunder should be able to mix-and-match against virtually any team to get quality defenders onto the opposition's best scorers.

As for the Knicks, they can finally close the chapter on Anthony's turbulent tenure in New York and try to move on without him. Anthony, who desperately wanted out of New York, had been determined to join the Houston Rockets. But he agreed to waive his no-trade clause for more teams, including the Thunder.

The trade comes after a tumultuous summer for the Knicks, who fired Phil Jackson after a disastrous tenure as team president and hired Scott Perry as the new general manager. It became increasingly clear that Perry, along with Steve Mills, who was promoted to team president in the wake of Jackson's departure, wanted to move on from Anthony.

Both Perry and Mills have repeatedly expressed their desire to commit the struggling Knicks to a rebuilding plan that would emphasise youth and defence. Although they did not say so directly, that description seemed to leave no role for Anthony, 33, who has never been much of a defender.

It will not take Anthony - who averaged 24.7 points and seven rebounds in 412 regular-season games for the Knicks - long to see his old team again. The Knicks are scheduled to play their season opener in Oklahoma City on Oct 19.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Anthony move installs Thunder as contenders'. Print Edition | Subscribe