The Carmelo Anthony experiment in OKC last season proved to be a complete bust.
The once-prolific scorer for Denver and New York was nothing more than an average starter alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the Thunder. And yet, after Melo accepted his player option for the 2018-19 season he is set to make $27.9 million this season.
Some players around the NBA believe the Thunder will stretch or buyout Carmelo Anthony. If OKC doesn't move on from Melo, they'll owe the largest tax bill in NBA history, per @BobbyMarks42. Due to repeater tax, they'd owe $130 million (with just 11 players under contract so far).— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 1, 2018
With both Russell Westbrook and Paul George now signed to max contracts, the Thunder can ill afford to pay Anthony $28 million this season. They are far above the luxury tax cap, and are currently set to owe the league $130 million. That money would then go to non-tax paying teams, such as the Utah Jazz, who knocked them out of the playoffs this year.
However, the Thunder seem to have an out. Cut Carmelo Anthony.
This would decrease the cap significantly, and would save OKC $91 million. Ninety-one MILLION.
Thunder, with Paul George at 4/$137M and Jerami Grant at 3/$27M, now have 11 players under contract, at $156M+. A 14-player roster would be $161M + repeater taxes of $155M = $316M total. A Carmelo Anthony stretch and replace with min would save $91M in taxes, as things stand.— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) July 1, 2018
Is keeping Melo really worth that much money? Last season, he averaged just 16.2 points per game, his first ever season under 20. His 40.4% shooting rate from the field and 1.3 assists per game were the lowest of his career, and his meager 5.8 rebounds was the lowest for him in over 10 years.
If the Thunder release Melo, they would be able to pay his nearly $28 million salary over the course of three seasons, cutting his cap hit this year by almost $20 million and bringing them well closer to the luxury tax threshold. The downside? They would lose roughly $9.3 million in cap space for the two seasons after this one.
But cutting Anthony would significantly help the small-market team in the immediate future. And based on recent activity from PG13 and Westbrook, they have already moved on from Melo.
While this tidbit of information has not been confirmed yet, it would be very telling if Anthony was not present or even invited. Paul George likely would not have re-signed with the Thunder if they were planning on keeping the same roster as last season, so a move like this could be imminent for OKC.