The Oklahoma City Thunder have a lot of questions heading into this summer. We know the answer to one of them: Billy Donovan will be back as coach. Another is not official, but we know it’s happening: Carmelo Anthony is going to opt into his $28 million contract for next season.
However, the most significant question will hang out there until early July: Will Paul George return?
Thunder GM Sam Presti addressed that in his end-of-season press conference Wednesday.
Is that relationship enough? George genuinely has enjoyed his time and experience in Oklahoma City, but does that outweigh the desire to go to Los Angeles and the place he calls home? Will how the playoffs ended in the first round — with Russell Westbrook dominating the ball and George struggling much of the series — factor into his decision? Only one person has that answer, and right now he’s not saying much.
‘Melo is going to opt into that $28 million, which makes him almost impossible to trade. He’s also not going to take a discount to facilitate a buyout. That’s going to lead to an interesting offseason — it became clear in the playoffs the Thunder were better defensively, and on both ends, with Jerami Grant on the court. With Anthony in the starting five in the playoffs (Westbrook, George, Steven Adams, and Corey Brewer) the Thunder were outscored by 7.6 points per 100 possessions. Substitute Grant into that lineup for Anthony, and the Thunder outscored teams by 10.6 per 100 (small sample size alert in both cases).
Anthony would be best suited at this point, with his skills where they are, in a sixth man role. He doesn’t want that. Which means things are going to get interesting.
As for Westbrook…
Which means him working more off the ball. That would be a good start to adding some diversity to the OKC attack.