What will happen to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2018 offseason? While many predict that Paul George will bolt via free agency, Sam Presti has to pull out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen. A team of just Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony does not have a dynasty sound to it. If the Thunder are serious about keeping a good core together, it all starts with an Anthony trade.
No matter if they win or lose the championship this season, Sam Presti will be faced with a tough decision.
Currently, the Thunder have four players making over $15 million with three over the annual pay of $20 million according to Spotrac. George stands to make $18 million. However, his new contract will be in the $30 million range in 2018. How can Presti fit that $30 million in with Westbrook’s $35 million, Steven Adam’s $25 million, and Anthony’s $24 million? There is no way this can work unless Presti moves Anthony.
The issue is, that may be easier said than done. Anthony has that dreaded NTC (No Trade Clause) that made it difficult for the New York Knicks to move him last offseason. But if the Thunder wish to keep George and not let him walk to the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony or Adams must go.
Moving Anthony is the best option considering his age and the value Presti can still get for him from a contending team. Not only just trading Anthony, but the Thunder must look into getting a productive shooting guard and possible power forward as well. By releasing themselves of Anthony’s deal, the Thunder should be able to find two serviceable players on the market to pair with Westbrook, George, and Adams.
The Thunder are set up for a great run after this season, but Anthony has to be the scapegoat of sorts. His price tag is just too high for the team to keep around until 2019. Anthony has played well for the Thunder even when the team was struggling to begin the season. How many figured Anthony to be a part of a team that ranks in the top 5 in terms of defense?
Despite the negative press he has received in Denver and then New York, it appears that Melo has brought into the team-first concept in OKC. So when the time comes for Presti to make his ultimate decision, Anthony has to understand this is a business and his services are just too expensive for the Thunder moving forward. There are plenty of teams willing to take on the last year of his contract. He can always follow his friend LeBron James, hold out for the Lakers or even end up in Houston with Chris Paul and James Harden. However, in Presti’s eyes, it was always Paul George or bust.