To the Losers go the Spoils
Oh Russell Westbrook. You sly dog. You knew this would happen all along, didn’t you? We were all just innocent bystanders witnessing the finessing of the ages going on behind our backs, slowly churning for a year then BAM! popping up in the public eye like another hurricane.
Let us not forget the brains behind the operation, Thunder GM Sam Presti. I am well aware that one of my recent articles demolished rather than built up an NBA GM, but this one is quite different. I actually praise the job done by Presti and respect his ability to deal with all this adversity.
The main point here is that last offseason, Kevin Durant spurned OKC for greater things in Oakland (aka the home of the Golden State Warriors for those unsure). At the time of the signing, Westbrook and his fellow Oklahomans (including Presti) were outraged and could not believe they had let a top 5 player get away. That year, Westbrook went on to make Oscar Robertson look like an AAU baller (no disrespect to the Big O) and run away with the KIA NBA MVP Award. Now, he has some new toys in town, with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony both being dealt to OKC this offseason. So basically, Westbrook traded in Durant for George and Anthony. Well done my friend, well done (non-sarcastic clapping).
Some (or many) may say that it is not as black-and-white as that. “Valuable” guys were lost in the process. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis went to Indiana and Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter and a second round pick went to New York. But we must realize something folks. These are all replaceable players. Guys like Anthony and George are most certainly not. They basically gave up two young decent shooting guards and two young Euro big men. In return they got two perennial All-Star swingmen who figure to fit perfectly in the Thunder’s iso-oriented offense. No matter that they both play the same position. Any team with three All-Stars on it is a title contender! Oh, wait, I mean never mind. OBVIOUSLY you need FOUR All-Stars now. Everybody knows that (or at least the Warriors do). This new Thunder team seems, to me, to be a second coming of the recently imploded Cleveland Cavaliers, featuring an electric scoring point guard buoyed by two dominant offensive wings (plus you get great defense from George. All for just $9.99!). Also, as mentioned earlier, the offense is isolation heavy, meaning everybody will get their share (except for those players not named Westbrook, George, or Anthony).
Their depth may be depleted. They may have just set themselves up for a repeat incident of last year if and when George bolts for LA. They may have two veteran All-Stars who play the same position. They may happen to run into this team I know from out west that’s pretty good actually… But who cares? Let Russ have his fun. Let’s see what these guys can do. George and Anthony have never experienced much success in the playoffs, so when they lose to the Warriors in the Conference Finals (or get swindled by the swift Rockets. Or get ousted by the ever-demeaning Gregg Popovich. Or lose to any of the other rising teams in the West) it will at least be a step forward for them. Let’s hope it is for all of basketball (except the Brooklyn Nets of course).