A summer ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Carmelo Anthony in hopes he thrive alongside reigning Kia MVP Russell Westbrook and then-new addition Paul George. A year later, it appears the Thunder and Anthony are set to end their time together after just one season.
Although Anthony did opt into his contract -- which pays him $28 million in 2018-19 -- he is expected to have a scaled back role with the Thunder next season. Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young, the Thunder are going to use the summer to determine a way to part ways with Anthony as they look to trim their overall payroll and luxury tax bill:
As the Oklahoma City Thunder navigate an historic $310 million payroll and luxury tax bill, the franchise's front office is working through scenarios that will culminate in the inevitable this summer: An ending to the brief Carmelo Anthony partnership, which could deliver the Thunder over $100 million in cost savings.
The massive financial implications of Anthony opting into his $27.9 million contract for the 2018-19 season -- coupled with a mutual understanding that his scaled back role isn't what he had signed up for to play with Oklahoma City -- have dictated that the two sides will part ways sometime this summer, league sources told ESPN.
The New York Times' Marc Stein reports (via Twitter) that the Houston Rockets are expected to be those vying for Anthony once he enters free agency. ESPN says to expect the Lakers and Heat to be among the multiple teams interested.
There is a chance, per ESPN, that Anthony could be traded and then simply waived by whatever team acquires him, thus allowing him to enter free agency. Using the stretch provision would slash the Thunder's tax bill from $150 million to $60 million.
Oklahoma City was busy this offseason, starting with free agent Paul George committing to stay with them. They also reached reported deals with big man Nerlens Noel, incumbent forward Jerami Grant and veteran guard Raymond Felton.
The 34-year-old Anthony had been the headliner his entire career - he's 19th in NBA history with 25,417 points - but he was more of a catch-and-shoot scorer last season instead of the isolation specialist he had always been. He averaged 16.2 points per game, but struggled at times in his new role. His playing time dwindled in the playoffs and he wasn't happy. In Game 6 of the first-round playoff series against Utah that ended Oklahoma City's season, he played fewer minutes than his backup, Grant.
It wasn't entirely clear if Anthony would opt in. After the season, he said he prefers to play with the ball in his hands more and said coming off the bench is ''out of the question.''
''So it's something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball,'' he said.
Despite his confidence, the 10-time All-Star posted career lows in scoring average and field goal percentage last season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti said at the end of the season that he doesn't expect Anthony's role to change.
''I give him an enormous amount of credit for the fact that he put both feet in,'' Presti said. ''I personally think he did an excellent job in his first year transitioning his game, working to becoming more of an off-the-ballplayer, being more reliant on other people to generate his offense, and sacrificing a lot. At the same time, I think every player is entitled to take a step back after the season, reflect on the year they had, and in his case have to make a determination about whether or not this is a role that he wants to continue to be functioning in.''
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.