The moment Carmelo Anthony bypassed his early termination option on his massive contract, the Oklahoma City Thunder knew they had a problem. Anthony is set to make just under $28 million next season and that number would put a huge dent in the Thunders bank account. Oklahoma City is set to pay over $300 million in luxury tax and they don’t have a full roster of players under contract. If Oklahoma City can delete Anthony from the roster they can save just over $90 million in luxury tax.
This puts the Thunder in a precarious position. Its not like Anthony is coming off his greatest season. In fact, it was probably his worst. This is the first season in his career where Anthony has not averaged at least 20 points per game. He finished with 16.2 points per game on 43% shooting and just under 36% from downtown. Still the Thunder would be hard pressed to replace even that kind of production elsewhere due to their cap situation.
Oklahoma City will explore trade options but those have to be minimal at best. If the Thunder buy out Melo’s contract and he becomes a free agent, they still have to pay him somehow. He could join a team in direct competition to the Thunder for little or nothing while still getting paid by them.
There will be no shortage of suitors looking for Anthony’s skill-set, especially given the small price tag to get him in that scenario. LeBron James and Magic Johnson in Los Angeles are looking for that exact type of situation to add to their new look Lakers. James Harden and Chris Paul came within a game of the NBA Finals and they could use one more piece.
Anthony could decide to flee to the now suddenly wide open east. Pat Riley has been looking for star power for a few years now to give his Miami Heat a buzz. He could offer Anthony something almost no other team can, a go-to-guy status. Anthony would definitely get the bulk of shots in Miami and Riley knows just what to say to get stars there. Maybe a team like Boston could add to their arsenal of players and make a strong push for an NBA title.
No matter what happens the next few days, it will be interesting to see. Imagine a 34 year old guy coming off his worst season might possibly hold the balance of NBA power in his hands.