Report: Thunder will part ways with Carmelo Anthony, saving franchise from historically high payroll and luxury tax bill

The short and frustrating Carmelo Anthony era in Oklahoma City will be ending this summer, per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young. The 34-year-old forward will either be traded or bought out by the Thunder after just a single season, and he’ll certainly be a sought-after commodity moving forward.

Moving Anthony saves the Thunder lots of money

Anthony opted in to a $27.9 million option earlier this offseason. That was before the Thunder managed to keep star forward Paul George with a four-year, $137 million deal. The Anthony opt-in and the George signing, among other moves, put the Thunder at a payroll plus luxury tax bill of $310 million, the most ever.

Anthony’s role on the Thunder rose and fell throughout the season, and a lesser role — plus the massive amount he’s owed — made moving him the smartest move. Per Wojnarowski and Young:

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 trade, the NBA’s stretch provision, or a combined buyout and stretch, league sources said.

In the stretch provision, the Thunder can stretch Anthony’s $27.9 million out over several seasons, which will help their tax bill enormously in the 2018-2019 season.

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 salary cap space in July 2019 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.

Anthony will have plenty of suitors

Anthony averaged a career-worst 16.2 points per game with Oklahoma City despite hitting 169 threes, the most of his 16-year career. Anthony’s frustration boiled over in the Thunder’s first-round loss to the Jazz, a series in which he not only struggled, but also watched from the bench when the Thunder played their best basketball.

Despite his frustrations, Anthony received praise from general manager Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan. “One of the things I really like about Carmelo is he’s a mature person,” Presti said. “You can talk to him. He listens. He’s been professional with us within the building.”

Over the past decade-plus, Anthony has earned the reputation of a capable one-on-one scorer in this league, and his ability to connect from downtown is a valuable one. Though no longer capable of being the focal point of a successful offense, Anthony can be a solid second or third option in the right setting. Several teams looking to contend are expected to pursue the 10-time All Star as just that.

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Carmelo Anthony will be out of Oklahoma City at some point this offseason. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Carmelo Anthony will be out of Oklahoma City at some point this offseason. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)