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The Oklahoma City Thunder have been eliminated from the playoffs. A 4-2 series loss to the lower seeded Utah Jazz has the team going into yet another off season of questions. Questions like what should they do with Carmelo Anthony, will Paul George leave during free agency and what will be the fate of head coach Billy Donovan?
Reports this past Tuesday that George is set to test the free agency market came as no surprise. The veteran forward averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game during the regular season. George has a player-option for 2018-2019 that is worth araound $20 million if he wishes to stay, but could receive over $30 million annually if he signs elsewhere.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been rumored to be his destination of choice for a couple of years now. The Lakers are projected to have over $50 million in cap space when free agency starts and could possibly sign two All-Star players.
George’s former team, the Indiana Pacers, could make a run at him as well. Indiana is projected to have over $30 million in cap space when free agency begins. George might want to return east after seeing the Western Conference up close and personal.
Reports also came out that the team would like to move on from Anthony. He averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Both numbers were down from a year ago and his career averages.
Melo has a player-option for the 2018-2019 season for just under $28 million. Unlike George, he would most likely use that option because at this point in his career, he wouldn’t make that much (annually) in the open market.
To compound things even further, Anthony has a full no-trade clause on his contract. He can deny any trade the team could come up with, assuming they could find any takers for that much money. If the team wants him gone that bad, both sides would have to agree on a buyout. In that situation, the contract would count against their cap next season but it could give them some extra cap flexibility during the free agency run of 2019.
Neither player seemed all that comfortable playing along side All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. Finding talent that meshes with him should be the teams main concern. The way its going now, next year’s version of the Thunder will go through another major transformation just like the previous two off-seasons.
There’s even uncertainty surrounding head coach Billy Donovan and the job he’s doing. Overall, he has a .610 winning percentage going 150-96 in three seasons with the Thunder.
His coaching style however might not be what the team is looking for going forward. He doesn’t seem to motivate his players like some other coaches can and the team plays too much one-on-one ball with almost no flow. With everything else going on with the roster, a new coach could be on the horizon.
The Western Conference poses a big threat with the caliber of talent the teams out there have. The Thunder have to be careful with just letting guys walk and getting nothing in return. They will need a few of these questions to be answered. They’re gonna need the right answers if they plan on continuing as a playoff caliber team.