As the Oklahoma City Thunder navigate a historic $310 million payroll and luxury tax bill, the franchise’s front office is working through scenarios that will culminate in the inevitable this summer: an ending to the brief Carmelo Anthony partnership, which could deliver the Thunder over $100 million in cost savings.
The massive financial implications of Anthony opting into his $27.9 million contract for the 2018-19 season — coupled with a mutual understanding that his scaled-back role with the Thunder isn’t what he had signed up for — have dictated that the two sides will part ways sometime this summer, league sources told ESPN.
Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose of CAA Sports, has a strong relationship and history with Thunder general manager Sam Presti, and they’ll work together on Anthony’s exit through a trade, the NBA’s stretch provision or a combined buyout and stretch, league sources said.
Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist, would be pursued vigorously among contenders on the free-agent market. The Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers are among multiple teams expected to express interest in Anthony, sources tell ESPN.
Oklahoma City can use the stretch provision on Anthony’s $27.9 million contract to eliminate a staggering $107 million off the team’s 2018-19 payroll and tax bill, but the Thunder first plan to pursue trade possibilities with teams looking to acquire a massive expiring deal to free up salary-cap space for July 2019 free agency.
Anthony still holds trade-veto power, but it’s likely that any proposed deal would be with a team wanting simply to waive Anthony and allow him into free agency.
The stretch provision would slash $90 million in tax, dropping the Thunder’s bill from $150 million to $60 million. The stretch provision spreads Anthony’s salary annually onto the Thunder’s cap for $9.3 million over three years.
Once Anthony, 34, opted into the final year of his contract, he lost some control over his future. Oklahoma City reached agreement to keep forward Jerami Grant on a three-year, $27 million deal, holding on to a developing 24-year old talent who the organization believes allows them to play faster on offense and better on defense.
After being acquired from the New York Knicks before training camp opened last season, Anthony accepted a new role with OKC that featured changing positions from small forward to power forward. It took time for Anthony to adapt and he never completely found comfort playing as a catch-and-shoot stretch-4.
Anthony hit a career-high 169 3-pointers last season and was credited by the coaching staff for helping provide space for teammates. Though his average of 16.2 points per game was a career low, he provided the Thunder a stable and consistent third scorer behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George.