We have watched other organization build there “super teams.” The Boston Celtics had started the season putting together Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward. Obviously the Golden State Warriors with Curry, Durant, and Klay Thompson. And the Houston Rockets with James Harden, and Chris Paul. Yes, the “Super Team” is certainly alive and well in the NBA – where drafting players with great scouting and building them up through loyalty to a team and fanbase is secondary and buying your team is first and foremost.
The Thunder had put together what most saw as a powerful 3-headed monster, loaded up with the kind of offensive talent that immediately put them into the conversation to compete with the newly revamped Houston Rockets and champion Golden State Warriors.
As far as Anthony goes, he firstly wanted to be a Rocket more than going to the Thunder, but the Knicks or the Rockets couldn’t get the deal finalized. It is also a well witnessed fact that Anthony has always produced and played better when matched up with a true and genuine pass first point guards. All one has to do is – look at the times he has gone on his playoff runs. Westbrook is just not a natural point guard, he is a shoot first player, as he forces passes when they aren’t there, and shoots far too much.
Then they went and added 27 yr old SF Paul George from Indiana. George was a great player dropping 18 a night, while bringing excellent shooting from behind the arc. He was also in a prime spot getting his 17shots/night, over his last 3 years – and having the team look to him as the #1 scoring option and leader for the team. As he had been for the last 4 healthy seasons there.
Melo led Syracuse to a NCAA national championship as a freshmen in 2003. Where he entertained and awed us all with his smooth scoring ability. And for his first 10 seasons in the NBA he was easily one of the most natural scorers in the league averaging 26+ppg.
He took a laughing stock of a Denver team to the playoffs every year in his 8 seasons he was there.
If we take a look now, at New York – it becomes really eye opening – the Knicks lost Melo, and what happened to the team?
Yes, the Knicks are still struggling, as they were last year – but they play with new energy, and are becoming an exciting team to watch.
What does this tell us?
Melo drained the team of unity and team cohesion.
Melo wanted to originally be a Rocket, because he knows he is a better player with a point guard who can get him the ball in rhythm
and not force him the ball, which Westbrook seems to do an awful lot. Chris Paul has never had a problem with that – as a true PG for Houston. And so far, Paul is getting the Rockets 9 assists/game and still getting them an additional 19ppg that come during the game, not forced.
If we go and rehash the time when Melo stumbled the Knicks to the playoffs in 2010 – he had Raymond Felton and Chauncey Billups as his point guards. 34 yr old Billups was getting them leadership, 6 apg and Felton was leading them with 9 assists/game. Neither of those players were anything less than PGs – pure PGs. Anthony also had Chauncey when he was in Denver where he was still producing. Melo, Westbrook and George sounds dazzling on paper but if we are being brutally honest, we all know they can’t win it with this lineup.
There were a number of things that took place for the Warriors climb – the growth of Draymond Green and one time steady 15ppg Andre Iguodala accepting not being a starter. Iguodala was a key scorer when in Philly and was getting 12-13 shots/game. Green brings them a unification with size, and Iguodala comes hard with defense off the bench – giving the 2nd unit a great spark and the team doesn’t skip a beat. Which makes me believe, Anthony coming off the bench would be a possible move that should be considered. But being that that is seemingly off the table shows the giant egos and true selfishness of this middling team.
Dwayne Wade has taken on more of a leadership role with Cleveland, and he put his own ego to the side to take a bench role with Cleveland, and has made the Cavs bench one of the better benches in the league. Wade is still getting his 10 shots/game and putting up 11ppg with 23 minutes, but he is playing the veteran leadership role now, not “the let me get my 35 minutes, and load my numbers.”
Russell Westbrook has never been seen as a great team player, except by the talking heads on television. As has a selfish play style that keeps him moving the ball for his own personal stats and numbers. When the vast majority of players struggle to reach a double-double – a triple-double was once looked at as the epitome of amazing game. The statline that made people shake their heads and say – “wow that guy played really hard and look at how much he did for his team.” Yet, Westbrook seems to do it on a nightly basis. Is this because he is just so amazingly talented and so far ahead of other players? Or is it because he plays for the numbers?
It seems to make no difference to the pure stat lovers though – statistically, Westbrook’s triple-doubles count just as the others, even when he shoots 6-27 or 9-33 from the floor. I fully understand that Russ is a genuine force of nature – but he’s yet to show that he can actually make his teammates better. He has never led the Thunder to the championship level that a team that had Kevin Durant, and drafted him as a PG, besides the 2011 season, where Durant was averaging 31ppg on 55% shooting. And where Russ was putting up 24 shots/game while shooting just 41%.
Keep in mind, we are talking about a PG – the player on the court, whose primary job is to facilitate the team and lead chemistry – who is getting up 20 or more shot attempts/game. Makes me shake my head. So when and why would anyone think that adding one on one player, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to this team would be a great idea? Watching Russ continuously jacking up long tough and badly timed jump shots – gets tiresome after awhile. For a guy who is barely shooting 43% overall and sitting around a miserable 30% from behind the arc – it shows a huge ballhog mentality and selfishness.
But the media still treat him like he is on par as the best player in the game as long as he gets those line filling stats. He plays more like a video game than a human – and this is not being looked at as a compliment. He will get his passes and assists early in the game, to load that box score, crash the glass throughout, with a great eye for the ball and aggressiveness – then start chucking shots around the halfway mark. He found a way to “break the system” – it’s not hard to follow the pattern.
Carmelo has been one of the most overrated superstars I can recently think of. With 7 seasons getting less than 3 assists/game and over the last 7 years a lousy shooting percentage of 43%. If someone puts selfish players on the same team and then try to label it a ‘super team’ it is going to be sadly mistaken. Donovan needs to be much stronger as a coach and reel Melo in – and tell him he’s not playing based off his ISO plays. Get him coming off of screens and some post plays, where Melo has always been very good, to get him better shots.
Paul George is the only one of the Thunder 3 that has really been able to do much of anything without the ball. Westbrook is just horrendous especially with playing off the ball, he just stands around watching beyond the arc waiting for the ball to come back to him, after his initial pass. And Carmelo has done basically same – there is simply no ball movement. Everyone just stands around and watches what the other guy is going to do. George is a bona-fide star and Russ is a robust player, but a greedy PG and an aging shooter just do not always mix.
Maybe, we may see teams like this begin to crumble and other teams can see that slapping together a super team isnt going to always create a playoff team, or a championship team. It takes a lot more than just plopping 2-3 guys together and saying “championship bound.”
It seems to be that the Thunder thinks their pure offensive talent will help them magically rise to the top of the Western Conference.
Which is greatly misunderstood.
Written by Vegas Handicapping Champion Mike Anthony.