On Not Learning the Lesson of the Golden State Warriors

Yesterday Bill Simmons drop a Woj-bomb level tweet today involving Carmelo Anthony


On a podcast with The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor and Joe House, the three briefly touched upon the possibility of this and said it made the Thunder a team that could really compete with the Warriors/potentially beat them. This deal is still a considerable ways away from happening and there's a good chance it might not come to pass. But the rumor of this as well as how some people reacted to its potential implications made me think a bit.

I talked about this in my piece on the Chris Paul trade but it looks like many teams in the league think the lesson to learn from the Warriors with Kevin Durant and their dominant championship campaign is that the way to win in the NBA one must merely amass as much talent as possible. But that's not the case.

Here's what I wrote back in that piece:

Durant is not just a top-flight talent but he represents the ideal small forward in the Warriors system. Now Durant would be perfect in many systems but with the things the Warriors want to do on both sides of the ball, a player with the particular skills and attributes of Durant is what is needed to reach the ideal and perfected vision of this team. Putting in a player that mirrors Durant’s numbers and production but does not possess his style and features would not yield the conclusions that we saw this season. If you think the Warriors just added another MVP and that’s why they won this year then you’ve missed the point of this whole thing and why the signing of Durant made so much sense.

Had the Warriors missed out on Durant, they weren't going to chase big-name players just for the sake of getting them if they didn't fit within the culture and style of play at Golden State. And thus what a move like the Thunder (or, to be honest, the other teams linked to acquiring Carmelo Anthony, like the Rockets or the Cavaliers) are trying to pull off to acquire Carmelo Anthony is not in the same style as what the Warriors did with Durant.

Anthony is a player that likes the ball in his hand to play his game, as the majority of his shots last season came 15 to 7 seconds left on the shot clock while nearly 10% of his shot attempts came after taking 7+ dribbles and 15% came after a touch that lasted for 6 seconds or more. All three of these teams linked to Carmelo-- the Cavs, the Rockets, and now the Thunder-- all present problems because they feature players that have similar games in terms of how much they command the ball. LeBron ranks near the top of all forwards in terms of these same categories, which is understandable because he is LeBron and perhaps the greatest player in NBA history, but when coupled with a usage rate of 30.1 (and Kyrie Irving just underneath him with a 29.9 usage) you see that Anthony's game might not be best suited for the Cavs as presently constructed (Anthony's 28 usage rating is nearly 4 points greater than Kevin Love's, the player he would ostensibly be replacing on the Cavs).

The Rockets are a bit like the Cavs in that regard. Houston's star player and last season's MVP runner-up, James Harden, ranked at the top of the list last season for field goal attempts coming after a touch that lasted 6+ seconds, posted the second highest usage rating, and nearly 40% of his shots came after 7+ dribbles. Their newest addition this offseason, point guard Chris Paul, posted similar numbers in terms of shot attempts after 7+ dribbles and touches that lasted 6+ seconds though possessing a considerably lower usage rate. The Thunder, with last season's MVP Russell Westbrook, have a player that posted the highest usage rating with 42.5, the highest in the history of the statistic and the only time one player has gone over 40. Westbrook also took 40% of his shots after a touch that lasted 6+ seconds and 34% of his shots came after 7+ dribbles. The Thunder also made a big offseason acquisition in the form of Paul George and while his numbers and ball dominance are not like Chris Paul's when it comes to additions to a team, he's still someone the Thunder would like to get more out of and thus want him featured more (the same goes for if they hope to keep him past this season).

If either of these teams were to add Carmelo, I would feel about it much like I felt about the Rockets adding Chris Paul to go with James Harden-- he's a talent and will make their team better but I question the fit on the team as it is currently constructed. With this overlap in terms of how each player plays and what they need to play their game, to put them all together means you will be diminishing what they bring to the metaphorical table. In that regard, you're not getting peak Carmelo Anthony if you add him to one of these teams, you are getting some of the things he does but not all of it (and likely sacrificing some depth and flexibility with that). Thus I think that assuming that whatever team adds Carmelo is immediately on-par with the Warriors is a bit short-sighted and means that the lessons of what the Warriors have done have not been learned by the rest of the league and the people who comment on it.