Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony stood side-by-side laughing, talking – two players separated by more than a thousand miles, living in dissimilar cities, but closer than anyone could understand.
Thunder players walked down the hallway at Chesapeake Energy Arena, saying final goodbyes before the All-Star break. All the New York Knicks had left for the team bus, but Anthony stuck around to chat with his friend.
Westbrook's best season as a pro will likely end without a championship. Anthony's definitely will.
The Thunder is in rebuilding mode, trying to find the ideal fit of players around Westbrook. But in a league driven by stars, how close is OKC to getting another All-Star alongside the MVP candidate?
As the Thunder continues to build a team around Westbrook eight months after the departure of Kevin Durant, it does so with the understanding that the NBA is star-driven. Anthony wants to play with LeBron James and Chris Paul. Durant has teamed up with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Stars are teaming up via free agency and trades more than ever before. It doesn't leave much room for the teams without two All-Star caliber players to vie for a title. One of the favorites for the NBA championship, Golden State, returns to Oklahoma City on Monday with a team of four All-Stars.
“If you look around at the great teams, most of them have two, maybe three players that are at the Top 10 at their position in the league,” said New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, whose team landed DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline, pairing another All-Star with Anthony Davis.
In the past 20 years, there have been teams who've won titles with one or fewer All-Star players – namely the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons and the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks.
“Talent wins, no question,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts, who was an assistant on that title team in Dallas. “… but I think team wins as well.”
Team wins to an extent. The league has changed even since Dallas' victory. The star power now congregates heavily in Golden State and Cleveland. Even James is flanked by two All-Stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who each made key plays late to help close out the Warriors in Game 7 last season.
The Thunder's time to get a star alongside Westbrook is ticking. He has one more guaranteed year on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.
The Thunder traditionally hasn't had success in signing All-Star level free agents (Pau Gasol, Al Horford), not to mention OKC will be over the projected $102 million salary cap July 1 when Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo's extensions kick in. Thus a maximum salary free agent signing can't occur.
So, another Serge Ibaka-like, draft-day trade could be in the works. It may involve the Thunder's 2017 first-round pick and a piece like Enes Kanter, who will make $17.8 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2017-18.
Bobby Marks, a former NBA front office executive who writes for Yahoo! Sports, says the premise of getting an All-Star to pair with Westbrook is easier said than done, especially since the Thunder's first-round picks in 2018 and 2020 go to Philadelphia and Utah, respectively. Teams cannot trade first-round picks in consecutive seasons.
“Your assets are a little bit depleted,” Marks said. “To get a good player you're gonna have to give up a couple of good players there.”
Marks does see potential in the upcoming trade market, believing there's buyer's remorse from teams overspending on free agents last summer. He also said the summer can be a time for players like Anthony, who has a no-trade clause, to take a step back and look at other teams' rosters. “It gives you a sense of appreciation of what other teams have you may not,” said Marks.
What the Golden States and the Clevelands have is multiple All-Stars. Oladipo and Adams could become All-Star caliber players in the future, but will that growth come within the Westbrook-in-OKC timetable?
It's what made the scene of Westbrook and Anthony alone together so poignant. They stood with their backs to the wall — Westbrook the last superstar in Oklahoma City after the exits of Durant and James Harden; Anthony 32 years old on a team far out of playoff contention with a budding star (Kristaps Porzingis) who's not seasoned enough to carry the load.
While the Thunder is far more stable than the Knicks, it faces a similar issue to the rest of the NBA, even playoff contenders like Boston or Atlanta: Its star search continues.
“Championship teams are always gonna have more than one guy, more than two guys,” said Utah forward Joe Johnson. “That's just kinda how things have evolved. To have one guy shouldering the load night in and night out, and winning a championship or a seven-game series, I think it's tough.
“I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's tough.”
[ 此帖被JabariIverson在2017-03-20 11:27修改 ]
引用3楼 @转瞬天堂 发表的:翻译完工时间：2017.3.2016:45
原文标题：Star Search: How close is OKC to adding an All-Star alongside Russell Westbrook?
[ 此帖被坚信OKC必进季后在2017-03-20 22:20修改 ]
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