Carmelo Anthony may never play another game for Thunder

By David Kenyon

Carmelo Anthony recently exercised his $27.9 million option for the 2018-19 season, but he likely won’t suit up for the Oklahoma City Thunder again.

The reason is simple: Money.

Following OKC’s signing of Raymond Felton, the franchise has a combined payroll and tax commitment north of $300 million. ESPN’s Bobby Marks, a former general manager, called it “an historic threshold” to cross.

That sure is a lot of coin for a slightly above-average roster. But the Thunder can dramatically reduce their payments if they negotiate a buyout for Carmelo.

According to NBA writer Jeff Siegel, a buyout of $25.5 million — Anthony’s contract minus the veteran minimum for which he could sign after being released — with the remaining money stretched would save OKC $116 million in luxury tax payments.

You read that correctly: $116 million.

Anthony isn’t an essential piece for a championship run in the NBA. That player for the Thunder, without question, is Russell Westbrook, and his most important sidekick is Paul George — who re-signed this summer.

The Thunder may miss his scoring occasionally, but Carmelo’s departure wouldn’t stop OKC from being a playoff team.

And a much, much cheaper one at that.