Why Carmelo Anthony had no choice but to opt in

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 21: Carmelo Anthony
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 21: Carmelo Anthony /

The first shoe of OKC’s offseason dropped as Carmelo Anthony opted in. While he had no choice, what he does moving forward will effect his next contract and role in OKC.

Since season end OKC Thunder fans and pundits have anxiously awaited a few key ‘decisions’. At the top of this list is Paul George‘s free agency choice and whether he’ll opt out and then elect to re-sign with OKC. Yet, if PG’s ‘decision’ is 1A than Carmelo Anthony‘s early termination option was IB. The hilarious part of this equation was for as much as everyone invested opined about the potential options there was never any other choice than for Melo to opt in.

Here’s why — First of all, let’s me introduce a hypothetical situation. Digesting earning $27.9 million dollars a year, let alone in a lifetime. for the majority of the population is inconceivable. So, let’s break it down to a more palatable juxtaposition.


You work for a competitor of mine as their top paid employee. I approach you,  recruit you and poach you. In the negotiation process we agree on a set two-year financial term of $50,000.

One year in, I recognize a new technology has emerged, so recent graduating scholars can perform your job more expeditiously with a better quality and return on investment. So, now I want to renege on the deal and farm you out to one of the subsidiary companies under our company umbrella. The problem is I have to reduce your salary from $50k per annum to $25,000. You have the option to stay at your current pay or go to another company. What would you do?

The Melo dilemma:

In essence this, albeit at an extremely advanced pay scale, was the decision Carmelo Anthony faced. The $27.9 million salary he just opted in to will likely be reduced to approximately $14 million on the open market (see table below) or 50 percent of his current pay during his next negotiations.

That and the fact he’s having a hard time dealing with his own regressing role and ability in the current NBA. Granted, there will be teams where he could possibly earn more than $14 million a season. However, most of the teams who’ll be competing for titles won’t be able to offer him a large contract. Rather, those teams will want Anthony to take a reduced salary and very likely a reduced role.

Even non-title competing teams will be weary of adding Anthony at a higher pay scale since they won’t want to pay exorbitantly for a ‘tutor’ when there are plenty of mid level players with titles who can be brought in to help youngsters on and off the court.


Below is a quick scan of the league with a view to players who fill the role of secondary or third scoring option. In some cases, the player may be the fourth option because their age and experience is a closer comparison to Anthony. Hence, not all teams were included as some squads are comprised primarily of youngsters.

Chart details:

  • Salary for 2018
  • Age: 30 and over noted in yellow
  • Career experience: 10 years and over noted in teal
  • Points per game (PPG) versus field goal attempts (FGA) with players scoring more than Anthony noted in pink.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic /

Presumably, if Anthony were on the open market the salary range he could garner would be in the spectrum of $12 to $16 million range per year. That number would drop if the contract was for multiple seasons. Since NBA players have a ceiling on how long they can play it makes sense to get what you can, while you can.

The chart above shows just five players who are 30 or older in the same role as Anthony and the same number of players with ten years or more experience. Six earn 20 million or more per season and of those all but one (Otto Porter) produces more than Anthony, though he is a 2-way player on a team with John Wall and Bradley Beal who occupy much of the scoring production.

Of the players on the above list only four take  more shot attempts than Anthony with each netting a higher point total.

Year One of OK3:

While the first year of the OK3 experiment didn’t go as expected there are two sides to this argument. Many jumped on Carmelo Anthony as the problem for the team’s woes. But, is that a fair assessment?

All the logical arguments are there to draw from. When Anthony was on the floor teams attacked him defensively and for the most part were highly effective. Certainly in the playoffs it led to Billy Donovan needing to adjust and keep Anthony off the floor in late game scenarios.

Yet, prior to the Andre Roberson injury the starting unit was killing on the defensive side of the hardwood. Granted the playoffs are a different beast, as the Toronto Raptors can attest to – their top five defense crumbled against the league’s 29th ranked defense.

Yet the overriding question OKC Thunder fans  left this past season with – was how different would things have been with Andre Roberson on the floor? Could Roberson’s presence have made a huge difference. Perhaps not enough to warrant keeping Anthony on the court during crunch time in the playoffs, but presumably enough to improve the overall product.

Playing up to the contract:

Of note, in season Carmelo Anthony was the only starter or core roster piece with a negative Box Plus/Minus (BPM) of -3.8 and negative Value Over Replacement Player Rating  (VORP ) of -1.1. In the playoffs this swooned to a negative -4.8 BPM and a minus -0.1 VORP.

More from Thunderous Intentions

In comparison Russell Westbrook was a positive +8.2 BPM and +7.5 VORP in season.  Paul George was +2.7 BPM and +3.3 VORP. Steven Adams was +3.3 in both categories and even Corey Brewer was a positive in both areas (+2.1 BPM/+0.5 VORP).

In the playoffs Westbrook, Adams and Brewer maintained positives in both areas although they did regress. George took a hit and knowing now he was playing injured plus receiving far more attention defensively it may explain the dip. Still he maintained an even standing in VORP.

Moving forward:

I’ve been as guilty as anyone suggesting Anthony should play less or more minutes with the reserves. And, the above stats punctuate clear issues. Yet, I’m also of the belief with more time together this squad can recapture the dominance they displayed prior to Roberson’s injury.

Regardless of how much Anthony believes he still has ample to offer it’s imperative he examines this aspect of his game. More importantly, he’ll need to be far more receptive to accepting a role where he adds value when he steps on the court.

Bottom line, given a contract of this nature and what awaits him in his next negotiation, you can’t blame him for opting in. Whether the Thunder elect to waive him, buy him out or look for ways to move him will  be an ongoing narrative this offseason. In the interim, let’s hope Melo spends some time in that hoodie working on his defense.

Next: Top 15 NBA Draft picks in OKC Thunder franchise history

If he can’t improve his defense to the point he’s not a deterrent, then he also has to accept the fact one of his teammates will replace him on the floor in crunch time.