Soon after Carmelo Anthony waived his no-trade clause for a few teams, he was shipped to the new look Oklahoma City Thunder. Even after the addition of Paul George to the team, many still believed OKC would fight for the fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference. Now, with the addition of Anthony to the mix, the Thunder have a shot at a higher seed in the west, and an outside chance of blocking the Golden State Warriors from returning to a fourth straight NBA Finals.
Why the reigning MVP needed help
After losing Kevin Durant to the Warriors prior to last season, many people wrote off the Thunder and gave them no shot at returning to glory in the Western Conference. Many even assumed that Russell Westbrook would just follow in Durant’s footsteps and walk away from Oklahoma for a better opportunity. Given that Westbrook just signed a contract to make himself the highest-paid player in the league, leaving Oklahoma City no longer seems to be an option.
Rather than hanging his head because his former MVP teammate left him to join forces with a conference rival, Westbrook decided to play the best basketball of his life. Not only did he set the record for the most triple-doubles in a season (42), but he also joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only other player in NBA history to average a triple-double.
Yet even after the historic year put up by Westbrook last season, the Thunder still proved to be lacking true explosive talent outside of the MVP and were ultimately bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Houston Rockets. Adding two more All-Stars to the starting lineup to join forces with last year’s MVP has rightfully put a smile on the Thunder faithful’s face.
Finally healing old wounds
Whether the Oklahoma City faithful want to admit it or not, they are still extremely bitter about the Durant departure last summer. The overwhelming question across the basketball world is whether this newfound Big 3 can be enough to help heal the wounds left by the brilliant Durant. Adding two All-Stars this summer has been a tremendous confidence boost for those that follow Thunder basketball, yet with that being said, can these offseason additions be enough to earn the Thunder the opportunity to force a Western Conference showdown with Durant and the Warriors at some point in the postseason?
Expectations for the new Big 3
The additions of both George and Anthony have made the Thunder a significant threat in the Western Conference this season. The lingering question in Oklahoma City, though, is: how long will this Big 3 actually play together? It may be a long shot, but if a worst-case scenario was to come true for OKC this year and this experiment fails, the Thunder could decide to trade away both George and Anthony in order to acquire pieces that could help them beyond this year. This would leave Westbrook in the same situation he was in last year, but with even fewer pieces to help him out this time.
A much more reasonable outcome for this upcoming season would be that the Thunder succeed and even take control of a top-four seed in the West. Yes, this new Thunder team may compete with the Warriors. However, it is my belief that the West is the Warriors' to lose, until someone finds a way to take it from them. The only way that I see George even considering a return to Oklahoma City after this season is if the Thunder can find a way to knock off the Warriors and whoever represents the East to win the NBA title.
If the Thunder fall short, even with their new Big 3, Lakers fans will likely rejoice and continue their campaigns for All-Stars George and LeBron James to make the move to Los Angeles. Regardless, it will enthrall to see whether another powerhouse can be born in Oklahoma City.
How do you see Oklahoma City's fortunes panning out this season? Comment below!