With the deadline passing Saturday, Carmelo Anthony did not exercise the early termination option on the final year of his contract to join the 2018 free-agent class.
Anthony, officially a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder again next season, will earn $27.9 million in 2018-19 to complete the five-year, $120 million contract he signed with the New York Knicks in 2014.
With Anthony back and the desire to re-sign Paul George to a max-level contract once free agency opens, the Thunder would have one of the largest payrolls in NBA history. ESPN's Bobby Marks projects the Thunder's salary to be close to $150 million, with a luxury tax hit of more than $120 million if George re-signs. Although the tax implications are jarring, the Thunder have positioned themselves financially to absorb the penalty.
Since acquiring him before last season, the Thunder anticipated that Anthony would opt in to the final year of his deal, always viewing the trade as a two-year deal, despite some comments after the season by the 10-time All-Star expressing some dissatisfaction with his role.
"I think for me, my focus would be on kind of figuring out what I want out of the rest of my career, what I want in my future, what am I willing to accept, if I'm willing to accept that at all," Anthony said following the season. "I think everybody knows that I've sacrificed kind of damned near everything, family, moving here by myself, sacrificed my game for the sake of the team and was willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order for this situation to work out. 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."
Even with Anthony under contract for next season, the Thunder could negotiate a buyout, use the stretch and waive provision or work a trade for Anthony (although he would need to waive his no-trade clause). However, the expectation for now is that Anthony will be with the team in training camp.
Anthony, 34, averaged career lows across the board with the Thunder last season, including 16.2 points on 40.4 percent shooting, though he did set a career mark for 3-pointers made in a season.
"If he is back with the team, if he feels like this is something he wants to continue to do, we all just got to be on the same page," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in April. "I don't want to lead it any different direction. Carmelo was great for us this year in the role he was playing: made more 3s than he's ever made in his career, changed his shot distribution, lowest turnover year. As I said before, that lineup was the best starting lineup in the league."
George has until Friday to opt out of the $20.2 million he is owed in the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.