3 weeks ago, I dubbed Kyrie Irving’s move to the Celtics as “the NBA’s flashiest off-season trade.”
I stand corrected.
Carmelo Anthony is on his way to join Paul George and reigning MVP/rumored cyborg Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. The 10-time All-Star was traded to the Thunder on Saturday in exchange for low-post bully Enes Kanter, sharpshooter Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round pick.
Initial macro-level impressions:
LeBron James is the most powerful NBA player ever.
Two. That’s the number of bona fide top tier players left in the Eastern Conference with Melo’s departure (Kyrie and Giannis Antetokounmpo). And James is all to blame. This offseason alone, The King’s conference-crippling dominance has ousted the likes of George, Jimmy Butler, and now Anthony. Based on ESPN’s Top 25 Players of 2017, 18 of those now reside west of the Mississippi, with only James, Giannis, Irving, Gordon Hayward, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, and Kristaps Porzingis remaining. Obviously the Pacers, Bulls, or Knicks weren’t in a position to compete with the Cavaliers, but losing their stars has once again made James’ path to The Finals an even easier task than before.
The Western Conference is scary. Like “The Strangers” scary.
Talk about a bloodbath. While LeBron lounges in northeast Ohio while bathing in wine and planning a move to LA, his western adversaries will be busy cannibalizing one another on a nightly basis. Hell, I might even invest in League Pass to see it all go down. Golden State’s still my favorite to come out of the West, but Houston, San Antonio, and now OKC will all have something to say.
We’re about to see a very different Russ.
Westbrook’s otherworldly levels of talent and ferocity made him last year’s MVP—and a target for basketball purists. Many (including myself) questioned his penchant for stat-chasing and shot-chucking, and how a supposed “Most Valuable Player” had badly stunted the growth of rising stars Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo. Maybe having the Maurice Podoloff trophy allows Russ to pump the brakes and let the league’s newest super team function like an actual team. I sure hope so.
God I’m excited for the season.