Raymond Felton filled a big need for the Thunder last season. In the couple of seasons before that, when Russell Westbrook wasn’t on the court, Oklahoma City’s second unit was a mess. It cost them against Houston in 2017 playoffs. Felton revived his career and changed that dynamic — he averaged 6.9 points per game and shot 35 percent from three, but it was more about him being a floor general and stabilizing the second unit.
Understandably the Thunder wanted him back, and the fact they were able to get him in a near veteran minimum contract is key, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Even so, the Thunder are now reaching record levels of payroll and tax.
Free-agent guard Raymond Felton has agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million deal to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder, league sources told ESPN.
Felton’s signing will push the Thunder’s payroll and luxury tax hurtling past an historic NBA threshold: $300 million. The Thunder are responsible to pay $150 million in tax on the 2018-19 season’s roster, if the roster stays intact through the end of the season.
This is a good deal for Oklahoma City, a no-brainer re-signing. He’s good on the court, good in the locker room and part of what makes OKC work.
But that tax bill is a number that would make the Lakers or Knicks balk. Thunder ownership insists for a year they are willing to pay it, they like this roster, but still look for them to make some moves to lighten that load a little either later this summer or by the trade deadline.
Carmelo Anthony, who opted into his $27.8 million for this season, becomes the obvious target to save money. However, it’s not that easy. He has a no-trade clause and at that salary the Thunder would be hard pressed to find a taker anyway. They could save a $91 million in taxes long term by waiving and stretching him (reducing his salary hit to $9.3 million a year for the next three years) but the question is how would that play with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, who consider him a brother? Anthony is not likely to agree to a buyout at a discount.
The Thunder may end up keeping Anthony around. But expect other, smaller moves to ease that tax bill.