Report: Carmelo Anthony met with Rockets, Heat as Thunder exit looms

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The Thunder, by stretching him or trading him to another team that will waive him, are dumping Carmelo Anthony.

The Rockets are frontrunners to sign him, but he’ll at least explore the market.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In advance of an inevitable – if not imminent – parting, the Oklahoma City Thunder granted Carmelo Anthony permission to meet with prospective teams, including the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat, league sources told ESPN.

Anthony and his representatives met with Rockets and Heat officials at the site of the NBA Summer League in recent days, league sources told ESPN.

The Rockets meeting included coach Mike D’Antoni, who had a turbulent relationship with Anthony as New York Knicks coach. D’Antoni made it clear to Anthony that he thinks the circumstances together would be far different in Houston, and welcomed the idea of coaching Anthony again, league sources said.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has been a strong advocate of signing Anthony, who could play a major role for the Heat at power forward.

So, it’s between a coach whom Anthony has resisted before (D’Antoni) and a coach wants to play at Anthony at a position the former star has resisted before (power forward). What a fun battle!

D’Antoni has embraced isolation far more than he did with the Knicks, but that was with James Harden and Chris Paul – not an over-the-hill Anthony. I’m hardly convinced Anthony joining Houston would go well.

Anthony has embraced power forward far more than he did with the Knicks, but that was with Steven Adams doing the dirty work behind him – not Hassan Whiteside as his center. I’m hardly convinced Anthony joining Miami would go well.

But Anthony is convinced staying in Oklahoma City won’t go well, so he’s now exploring other options. Good luck to him finding a good fit.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta says luxury tax not influencing Houston’s offseason

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The Rockets gave Chris Paul a four-year max contract.

But they lost Trevor Ariza (to the Suns on a one-year, $15 million contract) and Luc Mbah a Moute (to the Clippers on a one-year, $4.3 million contract). Houston isn’t rushing to pay restricted free agent Clint Capela, either.

Those departures are major blows to a team trying to compete with the Warriors. Risking Capela signing his qualifying offer, which would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer, could also undermine the Rockets’ long-term future.

These hard-to-swallow decisions all make sense through one lens – money.

Yet…

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

First-year owner Tilman Fertitta adamantly stated that the NBA’s luxury tax is not influencing the Houston Rockets’ offseason decisions.

“We know we’re going to be in the luxury tax, and if you want to compete for a championship, I feel like unless you get real lucky, you’re going to be in the luxury tax,” Fertitta told ESPN before the Rockets’ summer league game Monday against the Clippers. “So it is what it is. … It never even came up in any discussion.”

Sources told ESPN that the Rockets’ initial offer to Capela was in the four-year, $60 million range, with the blossoming star center seeking a deal similar to Oklahoma City Thunder big man Steven Adams‘ four-year, $100 million contract. The Rockets plan to pursue forward Carmelo Anthony after his expected departure from the Thunder via being waived or bought out, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

If Tillman’s quote is accurate, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is doing a terrible job. Ariza and Mbah a Moute are far better than any replacements Houston could sign, and with those two proving their willingness to take one-year contracts, there would have been no adverse long-term effects for Houston. Re-signing Ariza and Mbah a Moute would have maximized the Rockets’ performance next season and not at all limited them beyond.

But of course Tillman’s quote is inaccurate. Houston lost Ariza and Mbah Moute and is in greater danger of losing Capela next summer because of the real-dollar costs of assembling such a team.

The Rockets probably won’t escape the luxury tax entirely, though if Capela accepts his qualifying offer, there’s at least a chance. But it’s a matter of degrees, and Fertitta clearly deemed Ariza and Mbah a Moute too expensive to keep. That’s fair. He can run the team as he sees fit, and after sinking so much money into purchasing the franchise, his spending power might be limited.

But it’s silly of him to misrepresent the obvious situation.

Report: Nerlens Noel signing 1+1 contract with Thunder

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LeBron James and Nerlens Noel reportedly discussed teaming up with the Lakers.

LeBron did his part.

But Noel is headed elsewhere.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post:

Giving Noel a player option next year rather than signing someone to the one-year minimum, based on their current roster, will cost the Thunder an extra $1,775,001 this season – $244,828 in salary and $1,530,173 in luxury tax. Noel will count at the five-years-experience minimum salary rather than the two-years-experience minimum salary for most players on one-year minimum contracts. Oklahoma City has until the final day of the regular season to lower its payroll and reduced its repeater-luxury-tax bill, though.

The Thunder City needed a backup center behind stalwart Steven Adams. Jerami Grantwho agreed to re-sign – is a creative option at times, but he’s not big enough for every matchup. Dakari Johnson is unproven at best.

Noel’s stock has hit rock bottom, but he’s just 24 and still has the agility and length to become a versatile defender. His offensive role should be narrow, but he works as a pick-and-roll and rebounding specialist. Perhaps, he takes to Oklahoma City’s culture and improves his work ethic and image.

Noel certainly wants to hit the market again next summer. The Thunder wanted his talent in their system – to the point they’re paying relatively big to allow him the flexibility to become a free agent next summer.

Report: Thunder angling for seven more seasons of Paul George

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Paul George‘s staying in Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future. The Thunder forward has reportedly agreed to sign a massive 4-year, $137 million contract once the free agent moratorium is over on July 6.

But for the Thunder, the plan could be to keep George even longer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder apparently entered into their most recent deal with George expecting him to be able to opt out and then sign another extension after two years.

The money in the deal will vary based off of where the NBA salary cap ends up in the year he signs that future extension, but the real kicker for Oklahoma City is that they could have George for seven more seasons.

Via Twitter:

This contract, plus a 5-year extension in two seasons time, would take George through his 35th birthday before expiring. That’s huge for the Thunder, who apparently were not scared to offer George his deal and bite the bullet on a skyrocketing salary cap figure.

Aging veteran forward Carmelo Anthony comes off the books after next year, which should give some relief for Oklahoma City. However, moving forward the core of the Thunder will be Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, and George. Those three alone will take up something like $100 million each and every season.

It’s rare to get a star of George’s caliber, either through the draft or through free agency, for a franchise like Oklahoma City. Pulling the trigger on George’s deal(s) isn’t a terrible idea, although it does perhaps feel a bit reactionary after the team lost both Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Many teams out west don’t seem to feel the fear of the Golden State Warriors. Teams are still spending money on their own players and locking down stars despite the general cultural overtone of hopelessness in the face of how good the Warriors are.

Will the Thunder be good enough to knock off the Warriors or Houston Rockets over the next three or four seasons? That’s hard to say, but signing George is announcing OKC’s explicit intention to do so.

With Jerami Grant and Paul George re-signing, Thunder on track for record $150 million-plus luxury-tax bill

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The Thunder infamously traded James Harden, at least in part, to dodge the luxury tax.

Oklahoma City doesn’t appear to be worried about spending big any longer.

In addition to agreeing to re-sign Paul George to a max contract, the Thunder are also bringing back Jerami Grant on a lucrative deal.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Based on those terms, Grant’s salary next season will be between $8,333,333 and $9,782,609. Let’s assume it’s on the low end (most likely). Let’s also assume the Thunder sign their three second-round picks to minimum contracts and sign one more veteran (maybe re-signing Raymond Felton, though the specific player doesn’t matter here) to a minimum contract.

Oklahoma City would be in line for a $150,152,424 luxury-tax bill!

The largest luxury tax paid in NBA history was $90,570,781 by the 2014 Nets. That looks paltry next to the Thunder’s slated amount.

However, the luxury tax isn’t assessed until the final day of the regular season. The Thunder have plenty of time to trim salary. They can stretch Kyle Singler, trade Patrick Patterson or even move bigger names like Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams.

Or suck it up and pay big to maximize Russell Westbrook‘s supporting cast.