Thunder ship Melo off to Atlanta after just one season

By Michael Kinney

The options for Sam Presti were limited. In trying to unload the contract that came with Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder general manager didn’t have many cards to lay down.

Most people thought Presti would have to waive Anthony and still pay him the almost $28 million owed him on the final year of his contract. But, once again, Presti did what seemed to be the impossible.

The Thunder traded away Anthony, which keeps them from having to pay any of the money owed him and it drops the team’s luxury tax dramatically.

In a reported three-team deal, the Thunder send Anthony and a lottery protected (1-14) 2022 first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks. In return, Oklahoma City received point guard Dennis Schroder from Atlanta and former first-rounder Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot from Philadelphia.

According to reports, the Hawks will buy Anthony out, which will clear him up to play for any team that wants him. More than likely that will be the Houston Rockets.

The trade drops Oklahoma City’s projected luxury tax bill down from $150 million to $88.8 million. Their payroll falls slightly to $148.7 million. The Thunder also created a $10.8 million trade exception with the move.

What makes the deal so good for Oklahoma City is that it just wasn’t a money move. They actually got real talent back in return.

In Schroder, the Thunder gets a point guard who has started 161 games over his five-year career with the Hawks. He averaged 19 points a game last season to go along with 6.2 assists. But with Atlanta drafting former Oklahoma Sooner Trae Young, it left the 24-year old Schroder as the odd man out.

Schroder has 3 years left on his current contract. He is making $15.5 million a year.

Luwawu-Cabarrot was a first-round draft pick in the 2016 class. The 6-6, 205- pound swingman out of France is athletic and can run the floor.

The addition of Luwawu-Cabarrot and Schroder give the Thunder two things they didn’t have last season:  depth and playmakers off the bench.

Once again, it has been a busy offseason for Oklahoma City. Besides resigning Paul George, Jerami Grant and Ray Felton, they drafted Devon Hall and Kevin Hervey. They also signed free agents Deinte Burton, Nerlens Noel and traded for Hamidou Diallo.

That is seven new faces on the roster heading into training camp as of now. The Thunder still have room to make a few more moves. That includes trading or waving the little-used Kyle Singler.

The Thunder won’t announce the trade until all deals are finalized by the league.

The narrative surrounding Anthony’s one season in Oklahoma City has taken a negative slant with the 34-year old getting the bulk of the blame. Many fans, and some analysts, have chosen to blame him for the problems the team had last year, despite posting 16 points and six rebounds a night.

But in reality, when Presti traded for Anthony last year from New York, it was a bad fit from day one. Oklahoma City tried to turn a 15-year veteran into a catch and release 3-point shooter. That had never been his game and to think it was going to work flawlessly made no sense.

That gamble costs Oklahoma City the services of center Enes Kanter, who has become a fan favorite for the Knicks while posting 14 points and 11 boards.

Despite all of that, Presti and his front office found a way to get themselves out of the jam they created once again.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

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