Carmelo Anthony options dry up as cap rich team deals lessen OKC opportunities

Spurs GM, R.C. Buford talks to OKC Thunder GM, Sam Presti (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Spurs GM, R.C. Buford talks to OKC Thunder GM, Sam Presti (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A slew of curious trades is putting the squeeze on the OKC Thunder’s ability to move Carmelo Anthony.

Recent transactions suggest teams around the league are putting the squeeze on the OKC Thunder. With no leverage, minimal assets and Sam Presti’s resistance to being swindled, a buy-out of Carmelo Anthony’s contract is near.

It appears a Carmelo Anthony buy-out is the end result after all. After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that an OKC Thunder – Anthony divorce would take place this offseason, Oklahoma City’s quest to find a trade partner has been fruitless. While its curious that Presti has been unable to gain traction on discussions, the proceeding deals by cap-rich teams evokes even more curiosity.

The Brooklyn Nets were rumored to be interested in a salary dump provided a deal was centered around Jeremy Lin. However, the optics were messy. To make the deal work, Brooklyn needed to move Lin, Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead and waive Quincy Acy. Instead, the Nets agreed to a transaction with the Denver Nuggets which netted them a 2019 first-round pick and 2020 second-round pick. The first-rounder is top 12 protected.

Given the difficulty of a trade with Oklahoma City, this deal makes sense for Brooklyn. However, Atlanta’s role in the Nets next transaction was strange.

Brooklyn sent Lin, a 2025 second-round pick and the rights to swap second-round picks in 2023 to Atlanta for draft rights to 44th pick Isaia Cordinier and a protected 2020 second-round pick.

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This deal told me three things:

  • Atlanta were so overwhelmed with the possibility of teaming up with Lin, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
  • The 2020 draft is thin on talent.
  • A deep 2025 draft class is on the horizon.

Nets GM Sean Marks just gave Travis Schlenk a big hug. The deal ate into Atlanta’s cap space for no return. Any of the four deals I suggested earlier in the week is better than that. It suggests Presti refused to offer a future first or multiple seconds which I find hard to believe.

Next up is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls signed Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million deal. The contract comes with a team option for 2019. Mark Deeks of DeekSport wrote an excellent piece on the layers of the deal and its intentional layout. In a vacuum, the contract is intelligent and comes with tremendous upside. Parker after all was the second pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

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However, its peculiar the Bulls elected to get Parker straight up. He was made an unrestricted free agent after Milwaukee decided to play ball and he got paid. What’s unusual is Chicago had a myriad of options had discussions with OKC taken place without hindering their pursuit of Parker. I don’t pretend to know what was being said or what OKC offered. However, I am sure something close to the trades I suggested earlier in the week were on the table.

Some ask “why would teams help OKC escape a historically large tax bill?”. The simple answer is they shouldn’t. If they broadened their minds, at least in these cases, they’re actually doing themselves a favor.

Next: OKC Thunder must seize moment to facilitate trade with Bulls

As a small market in a big league, Oklahoma City will always be the underdog. But one thing is for certain: In Presti, we trust.