Did the Oklahoma City Thunder just put together a superteam to rival the Golden State Warriors?
Sam Presti, the Oklahoma City general manager, pulled off another stunner this offseason by trading two bench players and a future second-round pick for former New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. This deal comes two months after Presti netted Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. With the reigning MVP Russell Westbrook in the fold, the Thunder have created a big three that should contend with just about anybody.
Or will they?
In July, we ran the summer's first edition of the superteam standings. It's time for an update in light of the bananas summer we just witnessed in the NBA.
To recap, I defined a superteam as having at least three stars on the roster. What qualifies as a star? You have to have been on an All-Star team or All-NBA team in any of the previous three seasons. To rank each superteam, I created a points system that rewards star accolades as follows: five points for first-team All-NBA, three points for second-team All-NBA, one point for All-NBA third team or All-Star team.
One caveat: Those over 35 years old don't count for this exercise, which removes guys such as Kyle Korver and Pau Gasol, who would otherwise be eligible as a "star." Once we have the stars figured out, add up all of the SuperPoints for each team, and you have a pretty clear tiered system of superteams.
Did OKC make the leap to the Golden State Warriors' level? And where do the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers stand after their blockbuster swap?
Let's get into it.
Tier 1: The superteam of superteams
Golden State Warriors
Stars: Four (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson)
SuperPoints: 36 (Curry 16, Durant 9, Green 6, Thompson 5)
A class of their own. After a fairly quiet free agency, the Warriors retain nearly 90 percent of their minutes from their championship squad. In comes Nick Young and Omri Casspi, two players who will make them even tougher on the perimeter.
As I mentioned in July, this analysis, believe it or not, understates their superteam standing. Not a single player was voted first-team All-NBA last season. If Curry and Durant are voted first-team All-NBA this season, they'd hit a ridiculous 40 SuperPoints. As is, the team maintains a ridiculous lead above the rest of the league. The second-most stacked team falls more than 10 points short of the defending champs.
Tier 2: The superteam standard
Stars: Four (LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love)
SuperPoints: 26 (James 18, Thomas 5, Wade 2, Love 1)
In July, the Cavs were the only team other than the Warriors to boast a big three by this standard. That's not the case anymore, not after their trade with Boston and the Melo deal from Saturday.
But the Cavs still have the second-most SuperPoints on the ledger, thanks to the acquisition of Thomas. By this measure, the Cavs actually upgraded with Thomas, who was named second-team All-NBA last season. Questions surrounding his balky hip are real and could undermine the Cavs' status as a big three team. But if IT is healthy come playoff time, this team undoubtedly boasts star power among the league's best. But that's a big if.
Wade, who reportedly plans to sign with the Cavs after working out a buyout with the Bulls, bumps up the Cavs' score even more because of his recent All-Star appearances. That gives Cleveland a fierce foursome, but health (Wade turns 36 in January) will remain a huge question mark for the Eastern Conference champs. And that's before we consider Derrick Rose, who has missed more than 20 games on average over the past three seasons.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Stars: Three (Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony)
SuperPoints: 22 (Westbrook 16, George 3, Anthony 3)
Anthony may be 33 years old, but he's still a star in this league who averaged 22.4 points in a broken system in the Big Apple. In OKC's system, he should see much better looks alongside Westbrook and George.
And don't be surprised if a fourth star emerges from the mix: Steven Adams. The 24-year-old could be a monster this season as the benefactor of all the attention paid to the star trio.
Tier 3: Super duos
Stars: Two (James Harden and Chris Paul)
SuperPoints: 21 (Harden 13, Paul 8)
Say what you want about New York's haul in the Melo deal, but the Rockets seem to be the biggest losers from that trade. Not only did the Rockets whiff on Melo, he went to a conference rival in OKC.
The Rockets failed to put together the team's first big three (by this measure) since 1996-97 team featuring Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley. The Ryan Anderson contract, which pays him $61 million over the next three seasons, obviously proved to be too onerous for New York's taste. The Rockets can hope 23-year-old Clint Capela becomes the third star on the roster.
New Orleans Pelicans
Stars: Two (Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins)
SuperPoints: 21 (Davis 13, Cousins 8)
Jrue Holiday was a 2013 All-Star, but that falls too early to qualify for this criteria. While no one is calling the Pelicans a superteam yet, no one can boast a Twin Towers front line as daunting as New Orleans'. The team lacks shooting in the worst way, and adding Rajon Rondo didn't help matters. At 27, Holiday could still produce at an All-Star level, but he'll have ridiculous competition in the conference to get to the 2018 All-Star festivities.
San Antonio Spurs
Stars: Two (Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge)
SuperPoints: 18 (Leonard 12, Aldridge 6)
By re-signing Pau Gasol, it would technically make the Spurs a big three because of his 2014-15 All-NBA appearance and two All-Stars in the past three seasons. But Gasol is 37, and not exactly close to a seventh All-Star bid. This feels more like a big one than a big two, much less a big three. But a big season from Aldridge could change all that.
Tier 4: Barely big three
Stars: Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford)
SuperPoints: 6 (Irving 3, Horford 2, Hayward 1)
In terms of star power, the Celtics just aren't in the same class as OKC or Cleveland (the latter assuming Thomas is healthy). Neither Irving, Horford nor Hayward have finished on the top two All-NBA teams, dragging their score far below the other star trios. Essentially, they're the bare minimum for a big three.
Still, no one should be mistaking the Celtics for a superteam, even with the Hayward signing and the Irving trade. Depending on your opinion of Horford, you may not even consider this team as a big three. Nonetheless, they've got the accolades to check off three names on the list. They still have a good shot at No. 1 in the East, however, because of that other star, Brad Stevens, who has helped the Celtics exceed preseason Vegas expectations for three straight seasons. What's also clear is that with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the C's are engineered for LeBron's supposed decline over the next five years.
Tier 5: On the super sidelines
Stars: Two (Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan)
SuperPoints: 10 (Jordan 8, Griffin 2)
Danilo Gallinari is a good player in this league, but he's just shy of star status. Griffin and Jordan make up this big two now that Chris Paul has headed to Houston. To illustrate how far Griffin has fallen, he mustered just two points in this system. Jordan's durability has outpaced Griffin's overall contributions the past few seasons.
Stars: 2 (Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan)
SuperPoints: 7 (Lowry 4, DeRozan 3)
This doesn't mean the Raptors won't have a shot at nabbing the No. 1 seed out East. It just means they don't have a traditional super squad. They're banking on the core's continuity to capitalize on some newness at the top of the East, but Lowry and DeRozan need some more help before we start calling them a superteam. Being a perennial playoff team with 50ish wins shouldn't be laughed at. But they're definitely a tier below in the star department.
Tier 5: Tomorrow's superteam
Stars: 2 (Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague)
SuperPoints: 5 (Butler 4, Teague 1)
Karl-Anthony Towns will etch his name on the star level this season. Though he hasn't yet qualified for star status by this measure, he's one of the best young big men in the game. To take that next step, he'll have to dig in defensively and coax fellow aspiring All-Star Andrew Wiggins to do the same.
Teague technically qualifies on this list, but it'll be interesting to see how he coexists with Butler, who figures to share primary ballhandling duties for Tom Thibodeau. Butler is probably a dark horse for MVP this season, considering he finished as the seventh-best player by RPM this past season. If Towns' and Wiggins' defense improves, they'll make this a no-doubt big three in no time. Only five SuperPoints keeps them from the upper echelon.
Missed the cut:
Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Utah Jazz and Charlotte Hornets