(Photo Credentials: CBS Sports)
No Thunder fan or NBA fan needs a refresher on what Sam Presti and the OKC Front Office has in front of them for the approaching off-season. The Paul George Saga will continue until late June and into Early July, the Carmelo Anthony Inquiry also occurring during the same time frame. Are they both trending in the same direction? It could be so, whether it is to not be donning OKC jerseys next year at all, or for both to be alongside Russell Westbrook for a comeback year. But, for those expecting a story on what to expect regarding those decisions, I'm sorry (not really). This is all about cap and cash.
Let's establish a couple of things so far-- the projections for the NBA Salary Cap for 2018-19 is $108M, the threshold at which teams would pay the Luxury Tax is at $130M. Currently, counting only the guaranteed contracts for 2018-19, OKC has $88.9M tied up in cap space in regard to eight players: Russ, Dre, Steve, Abrines, Ferguson, Singler, Patterson, and Dakari. Add in Carmelo Anthony's massive payday for next season near $28M, suddenly OKC is near $117M-- below the luxury tax, but still over the cap with nine players on the roster. If Paul George chooses to sign with OKC, it will push OKC over the Luxury Tax Threshold while Presti still pursues the re-signing of budding forward Jerami Grant. If Presti is able to bring back PG and Grant along with Melo opting into his last year (which is likely), that's an expensive roster with only 11 players on it. The other three-four spots would then be dedicated to vet minimum players, most likely.
For those that want Carmelo Anthony gone-- it's not easy. There are three basic methods of this happening before the season starts:
He opts out: Sorry, not happening. He's made it clear that he's getting his money.
OKC trades him: This is truly the least likely of the options because of Melo's no-trade clause. He wants his money, he wants to start, and trading him before the season would be difficult-- it might be worth revisiting this if he is still in OKC near the trade deadline in 2019.
OKC buys him out: This is the option that people discuss quite frequently, that it is better to have him off the squad than to have him on it. Most are omitting the simplicity that if Bennett and Presti buy him out, that it will blow a massive hole into the salary cap; it is still a financial hold. If he is bought out before the season, it's possible that OKC can talk him down to somewhere near a $20-24M buyout, but nonetheless, still a financial hold.
The hope is that Paul George comes back and Melo opts out, but that seems to be a pipe dream right now. According to various national pundits, the most likely scenario is that PG leaves and Melo opts in to his final year of his deal. So, where does OKC go from there? It's foggy, but it is incredibly clear that Sam Presti has another nauseating and important summer ahead of him.