The Lede: Are Carmelo and OKC the Warriors’ Biggest Threat?

Carmelo Anthony protecting the ball from a Wizard defender. (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

Don’t have time to read through 1,000 words, but need some informed betting tips? Here’s a quick rundown on today’s biggest sports story (as adjudged by me) and how it impacts the way you should bet.

Oklahoma City Thunder Acquire Carmelo Anthony

Finally, the New York Knicks have freed Carmelo Anthony. After several months of trade speculation, the Knicks have officially agreed to send the ten-time All-Star to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the Chicago Bulls’ 2018 second-round pick.

Anthony joins fellow All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George in OKC, forming a lethal big-three. Do they have enough firepower to matchup with the reigning champions in Golden State? Are they even the next-best in the Western Conference?

Takeaway: Looking to the top sportsbooks, there are varying opinions on OKC’s NBA Championship Futures. Bet365 has the Thunder at +1800 to win the 2018 title, behind the Warriors (-180), Rockets (+1000), and Spurs (+1100). Betway has them at +2000, also behind the Warriors (-163), Rockets (+900), and Spurs (+1100). However, Bovada lists OKC at +1200, behind the Warriors (-160), tied with the Spurs (+1200), and ahead of the Rockets (+1600).

And now the question, you’re all asking: how does Matt from SportsBettingDime feel about the trade? Well, I’m so glad you asked. It boils down to one matter for me: can Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony play selflessly on offense?

While super-teams are all the rage in the NBA, we have to remember why the Golden State Warriors are so dominant: they play completely selfless on offense and all dig in on the defensive end. Piling up talent is great, but the Thunder aren’t going to become a powerhouse unless each player on the team is willing to give up a good shot to create an even better one for a teammate. This also requires everyone to hustle on offense when the ball isn’t in their hands.

Last season was all about Russell Westbrook in OKC, and that may have been the team’s best strategy considering who comprised the rest of the roster. But it was clearly not a strategy that’s capable of contending for a title. Now that he has talent around him again, Westbrook will let his teammates do some of the heavy lifting, while Carmelo accepts a lesser role for the good of the whole.

I’m not ready to take the Thunder over the Warriors or Spurs (read: the Warriors or Gregg Popovich), but I fully expect OKC to get out of the first-round of the playoffs, and given the number of variables that come into play over the course of an 82-game season (e.g. injuries), there is some value with OKC at +2000.