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The OKC Conundrum

Last Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder executed another earth-shattering exchange, acquiring disgruntled star Carmelo Anthony from New York. This comes on the heels of  an unprecedentedly tumultuous off-season in which a multitude of superstars swapped jerseys. The dreadful Knicks-Carmelo saga was the last domino to fall, and with it a new question emerges; How does OKC make this work?

Earlier in the Summer, the Thunder also acquired 27-year old all-star Paul George. According to ESPN, the presence of George and reigning league MVP Russel Westbrook was a prerogative in Anthony’s interest in waiving his no-trade clause for Oklahoma City.

There will presumably be an adjustment period for the Thunder’s new ‘big 3’. Undoubtedly, sharing the ball between three players who ranked in the top 25 in the sport in usage rates will insinuate concern. As previous pitfalls of supposed ‘superteams’ have shown, one star is naturally delegated to fall behind the others. How is that this Thunder trio can adequately reshuffle their egos to form a conscious contender to the likes of a Golden State Warriors?

The success of this team leans exclusively on its star triumvirate. Anthony is older, and lacks the necessary foot speed of a primary scoring option. At this stage of his career, his game has matured into a slower, ad-libbed isolation scorer. Westbrook remains the destroyer of rims and transition defences, but neither’s game presents the elasticity of Paul George. George is an elite defender; he held MVP Derrick Rose to 37.1% shooting in their 2011 playoff series. He has proven to be a Swiss Army Knife on offense, with his 39.3% career three-point clip and the years of mythological battles with LeBron in his Heat heydays.

He isn’t a terrific ball-handler, evident by 28.3% of his shots coming from the highly inefficient deep mid-range. This selection of versatile play style translates seamlessly into a Klay Thompson-esque off-ball role in OKC. George’s newfound opportunity to be a catalyst for contention will require an ego check, but with his contract expiring, what does he have to lose?

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