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.

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NBA players who changed teams this offseason

DeAndre Jordan

Old team: Los Angeles Clippers

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Austin Rivers

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New team: Washington Wizards

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Marcin Gortat

Old team: Washington Wizards

New team: Los Angeles Clippers

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LeBron James

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

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Omri Casspi

Old team: Golden State Warriors

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

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Trevor Ariza

Old team: Houston Rockets

New team: Phoenix Suns

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Nik Stauskas

Old team: Brooklyn Nets

New team: Portland Trail Blazers

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Lance Stephenson

Old team: Indiana Pacers

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

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Javale McGee

Old team: Golden State Warriors

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Doug McDermott

Old team: Dallas Mavericks

New team: Indiana Pacers

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ed Davis

Old team: Portland Trail Blazers

New team: Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Mario Hezonja

Old team: Orlando Magic

New team: New York Knicks

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo

Old team: New Orleans Pelicans

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Jose Calderon

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Detroit Pistons

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DeMarcus Cousins

Old team: New Orleans Pelicans

New team: Golden State Warriors

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Julius Randle

Old team: Los Angeles Lakers

New team: New Orleans Pelicans

(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jeff Green

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Washington Wizards

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Tyreke Evans

Old team: Memphis Grizzlies

New team: Indiana Pacers

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Wilson Chandler

Old team: Denver Nuggets

New team: Philadelphia 76ers

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Dwight Howard

Old team: Charlotte Hornets

New team: Washington Wizards

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Tony Parker

Old team: San Antonio Spurs

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Seth Curry

Old team: Dallas Mavericks

New team: Portland Trail Blazers

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Jonas Jerebko

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Isaiah Thomas

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Jeremy Lin

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Kyle Anderson

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Kenneth Faried

Old team: Denver Nuggets

New team: Brooklyn Nets

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Garrett Temple

Old team: Sacramento Kings

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

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Ben McLemore

Old team: Memphis Grizzlies

New team: Sacramento Kings

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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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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