MIAMI — Carmelo Anthony’s time in Oklahoma City will come to an end this summer. Now the question is, where will Anthony end up next?
According to ESPN, Oklahoma City and the 10-time All-Star will part ways at some point this offseason in order to help reduce a historic $310 million payroll and luxury tax bill. The Thunder will facilitate Anthony’s exit either through a trade, the NBA’s stretch provision or a combined buyout and stretch.
The 34-year-old Anthony is coming off a year in which he averaged a career-low 16.2 points and shot a career-worst 40.4 percent from the field in his first — and looks like only — season with Oklahoma City.
Next up for Anthony could be teaming up with another member from “The Banana Boat Crew.” The Rockets (featuring Chris Paul), Lakers (featuring LeBron James) and Heat (could feature Dwyane Wade if he decides against retirement) are among multiple teams expected to express interest in Anthony, according to ESPN.
While the Rockets and Lakers give Anthony a better chance at an NBA championship this upcoming season, his friendship with Wade and an opportunity to be a go-to scorer for the Heat could bring him to Miami.
But acquiring Anthony through a trade is unlikely because the Thunder would have to take back salary in this scenario. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the Thunder to take back the salaries of James Johnson and Dion Waiters in a deal, considering the main reason Oklahoma City wants to part ways with Anthony is to alleviate its own salary cap and luxury tax issues.
However, a trade could make sense for the Thunder if a team is willing to just absorb Anthony’s $27.9 million contract into cap space. The Bulls have the most remaining space for the 2018-19 season and could consider this because it’s an expiring deal. It’s important to remember, though, that Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract and could turn down that possibility.
But using the stretch provision to part ways with Anthony is the most realistic possibility for the Thunder. The move would eliminate about $107 million off the team’s 2018-19 payroll and tax bill, according to ESPN, as it would slash Anthony’s $27.9 million cap hit for the upcoming season to a more palatable $9.3 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons.
If a trade is indeed out of the question, Anthony will essentially become a free agent once he is waived or bought out.
What do the Heat have to offer him? Not much.
Excluding cap holds, the Heat have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 million. That puts Miami way above the $101.9 million salary cap and very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line.
That means the Heat only have a minimum contract or exception money (can’t use both the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception and Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception in same season) to offer Anthony. Miami could use the $5.3 million Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception for Anthony, but that was thought to be reserved for Wade if he decides to return.
The Heat could shed other salary, but it’s unlikely they would be able to get rid of enough to create space under the $101.9 million cap to sign Anthony. However, shedding salary could be done to make it easier to use the $8.6 million Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception for Anthony, an exception that triggers a hard cap at the $129.8 million apron.
The problem is that using the exception on Anthony would leave the Heat with just a minimum deal to offer Wade. The Associated Press has reported that Wade will not play on a minimum contract, which would be worth about $2.4 million in his case.
Plus, Miami still has its own free agent Wayne Ellington to worry about. The Heat would like to bring back Ellington, but the parties have not been able to reach an agreement yet as Miami works to avoid an expensive luxury tax bill.
The Lakers and Rockets don’t have much more than the Heat — in terms of money — to offer Anthony, so it could basically come down to him choosing a minimum deal in Miami over minimum deals in Los Angeles and Houston if he wants to play for the Heat.
While Miami is reportedly interested in Anthony, it’s a complicated situation.