The last six teams to debut in the 2017/18 regular season are in action this evening. Two of the three games are part of a TNT nationally-televised doubleheader.
The Clippers and Lakers will play the late game out on the west coast but before that the Knicks will pay a visit to Oklahoma City to take on their old friend Carmelo Anthony in his new digs.
The Thunder has lofty expectations for its new trio of All-Stars and is a 12-point favorite ahead in tonight’s home opener.
Oklahoma City made one of the first significant moves of the off-season when it brought in Paul George via a trade at the end of June. Then it made one of the last when it sent Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to New York for Carmelo Anthony.
In those two moment separated by about three months, the Thunder went from a quality playoff team to an outside contender, and then to the team to beat stop Golden State in the Western Conference, if one exists.
Sam Presti overhauled the roster without, of course, giving up Russell Westbrook, nor his best perimeter defender in Andre Roberson, center in Steven Adams, or even a first-round draft choice. All the Thunder lost in acquiring the two all-world wings was Victor Oladipo, Kanter, McDermott, and the young Sabonis. Their two newest All-Stars are both free agents at the end of this season but OKC may just have the means to retain them both, along with the rest of its core, long-term.
For now, the focus is on this season. Both Anthony and George have made it clear they are not willing to consider their futures beyond this season because they both see the special opportunity they have in a place that neither necessarily expected he would end up.
George had long been tied to his hometown of Los Angeles and Anthony to another big market that could rival what he was able to build for himself in New York, even if his results on the court were less than desirable. Now, both guys find themselves in Oklahoma, teaming up with the reigning MVP who did more by himself last season than anyone else in the NBA.
Skeptics wonder whether there will be enough looks to satisfy three guys who are all ball-dominant players. Those concerns are valid but I believe in what the Thunder have on their roster because of the defensive potential.
In George, Roberson and Westbrook, OKC has three of the toughest perimeter defenders out there and Steven Adams is a plus rim defender. Even if the offense isn’t terribly fluid, the extra options to help spell Westbrook, along with a dominant defense, should be enough to make OKC the second-best team in the Western Conference with potential to take the leap to Golden State’s level if, and only if, the offense gels seamlessly and a bounce or two goes their way.
But that’s getting ahead of things. These are the Knicks, and the Knicks without Carmelo Anthony. This is ‘Melo’s first chance to show his old team that he might not have been the problem all along.
Free Pick: Oklahoma City -12