After weeks of speculating where Carmelo Anthony will end up next season, it is finally becoming increasingly clear that the Houston Rockets will sign him to a contract to shore up their small forward void after Trevor Ariza left for the Phoenix Suns. But that transaction between the Rockets and Anthony will not be possible had the Atlanta Hawks not stepped in to help out the Oklahoma City Thunder in getting rid of Anthony’s contract.
The Hawks reportedly bought out Anthony earlier, but they didn’t do it because they were good friends with the Thunder brass. Far from it. The Hawks pulled the trigger on the trade that brought Melo to the team in exchange for Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala and immediately sought to cut ties with him because it benefited them long term.
Contrary to popular belief, they are in much better shape than the Thunder after the deal.
Anthony wasn’t going to stay a Hawk for long as it had already been widely believed that Atlanta would arrange a buyout with the 15-year veteran. The Hawks are looking ahead to the future while the former Thunder forward’s best days are already behind him.
He is no longer the scoring threat that he used to be with the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks. He should already be a bench player but refuses to acknowledge his diminishing skills and instead continues to believe that he’s still one of the best players in the game.
In an insider piece written by The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, he wrote about the Hawks’ shrewd decision to give up their starting point guard for a player they would cut ties with eventually.
(Will also note just because I didn’t talk a ton about OKC in here: I think Schroder will be basically the same guy for the Thunder, and that’ll help the Thunder. At the price tag? I would have gone a different direction. But he’ll be somewhat helpful for them)
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) July 30, 2018
“There are also two factors that make this an even bigger no-brainer move for Atlanta. First, whereas Schroder’s cap hit was spread over three years at $15.5 million per season, the Hawks get to consolidate all of Anthony’s $25.5 million into one season. That helps their flexibility long-term and gives them an opportunity (to) add value to their roster faster than if they still had Schroder. Second, the team will now get to officially hand over the reins of the offense to Trae Young, eliminating the potential for an awkward locker room dynamic in training camp or to start the season.”
Trading Schroder was a terrific move for the Hawks to keep them from being a mediocre team and instead rebuild from the ground up with Young as one of the cornerstones in their rebuilding efforts. The rookie is expected by many to be the second coming of Stephen Curry.
That may be quite a stretch given that Curry is a couple of inches taller at 6-foot-3 compared to Young who’s 6-feet flat and the Warriors star is a two-time Most Valuable Player as well. But Young does appear to have the qualities of a future All-Star and one who can carry the Hawks to playoff contention again in a similar fashion to the way that he carried the Oklahoma Sooners to the NCAA Tournament in his lone collegiate season.
For the meantime, Hawks fans will have to endure some growing pains for a year or two after this trade, but it may not be as excruciating as what the Philadelphia 76ers faithful endured with The Process.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Thunder found themselves a backup point guard to Russell Westbrook who is just as fiery and almost as explosive to the basket as he is. With the trade, OKC acquired a player who will keep the pace as fast as Westbrook would like it. It also allows them to insert both players at the same time on the court depending on the matchups and switch Westbrook to shooting guard when necessary and vice versa.
However, they have to take on Schroder’s contract, the one that the Hawks were so willing to give up. Oklahoma City is already knee-deep in luxury tax territory and they added a player who could also prove to be troublesome in the locker room. They already have a headstrong point guard and adding another one who plays exactly the same position could be disastrous. The key is in how Schroder accepts a bench role and whether he is willing to be accountable to veterans Westbrook and Paul George.
Furthermore, Schroder has shown signs of disruptive behavior in the past. Last September, he was arrested for fighting at a hookah bar, an issue which has yet to be resolved up to now and one that the Thunder should hope will be settled amicably. In the second half of a game two seasons ago, he was benched by Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer for arguing with Dwight Howard during a play, resulting in his man getting an easy bucket. After the 2017 All-Star break, he was suspended for one game for returning late to the team.
OKC is hoping that the rewards are better than the risk they are taking on with Schroder.
As for the Hawks brass, they are sitting quite comfortably after the trade, knowing that their future is bright, though the hard work has only just begun. For now, the pieces are slowly falling into place for the franchise to get back on its heels. The Hawks missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons when they recorded a 24-58 win-loss record last season.
Banking on Young may be risky, but it’s a better gamble than having Schroder or Anthony in their lineup for the next few years.