If the Oklahoma City Thunder have their way, Paul George (player option) will re-sign with them in free agency.
If they really have their way, he’ll be returning to a team that doesn’t include Carmelo Anthony.
From Sporting News’ Sean Deveney:
Keeping George in town has been the underlying goal since before the season started. The Thunder traded for George, a free-agent-to-be last summer with the hope that Westbrook could recruit him from within and persuade him to pass on a chance to go home to Los Angeles or join a contender like the Rockets in order to stick it out with OKC. There’s not much more the Thunder can do on that front.
What might be more pressing is the issue with Anthony. While the Thunder want to keep George long-term, they’d very much like to find a way to rid themselves of Anthony, who could not find a role with the team and did not inspire confidence with his unwillingness to sacrifice, highlighted by his insistence that he would not come off the bench.
Good luck with this, Oklahoma City. Seriously.
Anthony has an early termination option he could exercise that allows him to explore free agency. News flash: He’s not exercising it. He’s slated to earn $27.9 million next season. It would take him at least three years to recoup all of that money in this summer’s market.
This, to be fair, doesn’t account for a bidding war from teams that are just lusting after a marquee name, even if he’s washed, to fill some seats. The Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets all vied to overpay Dwyane Wade in 2016. (Chicago, of course, won.) But the free-agency landscape was different then. Plus, each of those teams was considered a playoff contender. Melo won’t sign with, say, the Phoenix Suns just to get his money (I don’t think). Nor would any team in the Suns’ situation necessarily want him.
Hence the Thunder’ dilemma. Their best of hope parting ways with Anthony rests on the trade market. Even there, though, they won’t be able to move his expiring contract without including a sweetener or, more likely, taking back some other unsavory money in return.