The Thunder find themselves down 3-1 to the Utah Jazz and Westbrook is taking a ton of criticism for not being able to carry this team past a Utah Jazz team which is being anchored by a rookie in Donovan Mitchell who has
taken the league by storm. A lot of expectations were placed on the Thunder due to them boasting 3 all-stars in Carmelo Anthony,Russell Westbrook, and Paul George but the chemistry has been non-existent all season. Sure they’ve had their share of good performances collectively but they have not been able to develop the chemistry to be a title contender.
I do not believe their is a serious problem in OKC, the problem is George and Anthony are not used to sacrificing so much to win. It is the first time in their respective careers where they’ve had to sacrifice touches in order to mesh in with other ball dominant stars. Maybe you can attribute the fall off due to Roberson’s season ending injury but even with Andre in the lineup I could not see them getting past Golden State or Houston. Assuming George signs elsewhere which he likely will if they get eliminated in the first round, the Thunder will be better off,let me explain.
Carmelo Anthony has an option he can exercise in which he will earn $27 million, nothing against Carmelo Anthony but no one is going to pay him that $27 million in the NBA right now. I definitely do not see him leaving and believe he will give it another run with Westbrook next season and see how both of them could make things work without having to sacrifice touches on the offensive end. Even without George they will still be getting back Andre Roberson next season who is an All-NBA defender and he could play the 2 while Melo can continue playing at the 4. The Thunder can compensate for George’s defense because you can make an argument Roberson is an even better defender than he is.
Westbrook is still in his prime and even though Melo is not the Melo he once was, I’d like to think he would be able to flourish a lot more in a more featured role in which he wouldn’t have to sacrifice touches and regulate into a spot up shooter to satisfy George’s need for touches. I think if Melo could be the second option behind Westbrook he could easily bump up his averages to 19-23 points per game next season and OKC would be a much more balanced team while everyone will have defined roles.
The huge plus is OKC would still have two great defenders in Adams and Roberson who could compensate for Melo’s weaknesses on defense. It would be even more important to have 2 floor spacers on the floor since Roberson and Adams are not shooters and you could probably add Westbrook onto that list since he himself is an inconsistent shooter and you’ll never know if his shot is on or not. Carmelo Anthony has struggled this season from the perimeter but I think that has more to do with him being out of rhythm and not being able to play his strengths knowing he has to be more passive in order to keep Westbrook and George engaged on offense.
Could they be a title contender next season with a core of Westbrook-Melo-Roberson-Adams? Certainly, if Westbrook and Melo can get back to being themselves and be the dynamic offensive talents they are I believe they will be a 50-60 win team next season. Roberson is that big of a difference maker on the defensive end and can guard 4 positions on the floor, you would think he would come back a better shooter also which will only make OKC that much more lethal.
To conclude bringing in Paul George caught everyone by surprise after the rumored destinations were the Cavaliers,Rockets, and hometown Lakers. Presti shocked us all bringing in George and Anthony but it was a failed experiment and let’s move on. Yes it was a good move to show your franchise player you were serious about putting help around him but now we know what Russell Westbrook doesn’t need going forward. Westbrook does not need a stockpile of all-stars to win, his play style is not meant to accommodate a crew of stars. The man is at his best when he can fully be himself and shine without having to sacrifice, although he took an early exit last season I knew he did not need all-stars to get the ring. Sometimes it’s best to build a team around your franchise player and not just put a band of all-stars together. Let Westbrook be Westbrook, give him some defenders to get stops and a star he can count on to carry the scoring load whenever he is on the bench or gets trapped and forced to pass. Melo might not be the superstar he once was but if you double Russell and he gets an isolation I’ll take my chances with Melo scoring or getting fouled 70 percent of the time. We will see what brews this off-season.