The Oklahoma City Thunder are paying dearly to put the best product on the court that they can.
The Thunder have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 now that they’ve agreed to deals with Paul George and Jerami Grant. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, their payroll is projected to be $156 million. Their luxury tax bill would be at least $130 million due to their status as a multiple repeat violator.
With Paul George and Jerami Grant on board, Oklahoma City now has a payroll of $156M with 11 players under contract. Because of the repeater tax penalty, the Thunder currently have a tax bill of $130M. The tax bill would be the largest in NBA history.
What really kills the Thunder is the Carmelo Anthony contract. Melo was a bust for them last season and opted into his contract for just under $28 million this year. The team could significantly reduce their tax bill if they waive him via the stretch provision.
You have to wonder whether the Thunder will consider this option.
Between George and Russell Westbrook, they will be paying around $70 million. Add in Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Grant, and you’re at around $110 million, which pushes them well over the salary cap. They’ll have to seriously weigh keeping Melo.
With Friday’s deadline looming, Paul George is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That does not, however, mean he has ruled out returning to the team next season.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that George has informed Thunder officials he will opt out, but the star swingman is “seriously interested” in re-signing with the team. George is also planning to strongly consider the Los Angeles Lakers.
While it seems like a two-horse race for George, Wojnarowski notes that the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets also have interest in him. George is eligible to sign a five-year, $176 million contract with the Thunder, but he may prefer a short-term deal that would allow him to opt out after next season. In 2020, George will have 10 years of service in the NBA and be eligible for a four-year, $169 million deal.
The Thunder knew they were taking a risk by trading for George last offseason, as the 28-year-old grew up in L.A. and told the Indiana Pacers he planned to sign with the Lakers during the 2018 offseason. However, some recent comments George made indicate he could be leaning toward remaining in OKC for at least another year.
Many have assumed for years that Paul George is destined to end up with the Los Angeles Lakers, and that could very well come to fruition this summer. But based on everything George has said to this point, Oklahoma City Thunder fans should not give up hope.
ESPN aired Part 1 of a three-part documentary series entitled “Paul George: My Journey” on Tuesday, and in it George made it clear that he intends to opt out of the final year of his contract. He also spoke very highly of the Thunder and their front office group, and at one point he indicated he feels inclined to reward them for taking a chance by trading for him.
“Here they have made a huge risk in trading for me, knowing I have one year on my deal,” George said, as transcribed by Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “But I felt I didn’t finish as strong as I could have. Just knowing you left something on the table, even to this point now, it weighs on me.”
George did not make as big of an impact as expected in his first season with the Thunder, and his last game of the year was arguably his worst. George scored just five points on 2-of-16 shooting in a Game 6 playoff loss to the Utah Jazz, and OKC failed to advance past the first round for the second straight season.
George’s sister, Teiosha George, said the Thunder “really wowed us” when Paul arrived in Oklahoma City. George said he is considering a lot of factors in making his free agency decision, describing the process as “overwhelming.”
“It’s a lot of things that go into it — trying to find the right fit, what’s the best place for me to raise my kids,” he said. “A lot is playing into this, so it’s a bit overwhelming.”
It seems fairly obvious that George’s decision has come down to staying in OKC or signing with the Lakers. Perhaps he is waiting for the biggest story of the NBA offseason to unfold, as it could be the deciding factor in which team he chooses.
Paul George said after he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder that he would be dumb to not consider re-signing with the team if they were a contender, which is why it makes sense that he is leaning toward leaving after a first-round playoff exit. However, you wouldn’t know that by listening to general manager Sam Presti.
In his end-of-season news conference on Wednesday, Presti said he has had an open dialogue with George and has been “really encouraged” by their conversations.
Presti says dialogue with Paul George “has really encouraged us.”
According to a report from earlier in the week, George is expected to leave OKC for another team this summer. Perhaps he will change his mind and want to continue playing with Russell Westbrook, but the way the season ended does not help the Thunder’s chances.
George, 28, averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game in his first season with Oklahoma City. The Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs in six games by the Utah Jazz, and Carmelo Anthony is already questioning his role with the team going forward. Of the three big stars, it’s a definite possibility that Westbrook will be the only one returning next year.
Wednesday night’s comeback by the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Utah Jazz was more proof of how impactful Rudy Gobert is on defense.
The Jazz were up by as much as 25 points (71-56) in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Thunder. Just when it looked like Utah would end the series in five games and advance to the second round, everything changed.
The Thunder put up 37 points in the third quarter and tied things up at 78 entering the final period. Most of their comeback was mounted when Gobert was out of the game due to foul trouble.
Utah was up 65-46 when Gobert exited the game after picking up his fourth foul with 9:23 left in the third quarter. He sat for about four minutes and when he re-entered, the score was 73-60. He picked up his fifth foul a little over a minute later. Utah was up 74-64 at that point.
Gobert finally returned with just under eight minutes left in that game, but by that point, the Thunder had claimed an 88-87 lead.
With Gobert spending so much time on the bench due to foul trouble, the Thunder ended up leading the Jazz in points in the paint (44 to 32). Just in case you weren’t convinced about his defensive impact before, you should be now. This is exactly why the NBA’s block leader last year was voted first-team All-Defense.
Officiating controversies continue to be a black eye for the NBA this season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors on Sunday 132-125, but the end of the game was marred by some questionable refereeing decisions. A series of perceived no-calls down the stretch of the contest caused Toronto’s frustration to boil over, and Serge Ibaka, DeMar DeRozan, and coach Dwane Casey were all ejected in quick succession in the last ten seconds. Casey’s tossing (the final one of the three) seemed particularly egregious, as the referees appeared to eject him when it was actually a fan who yelled at them.
Kyle Lowry and Dwane Casey can only laugh as Casey gets T'd & tossed for someone else yelling at the referee pic.twitter.com/CYgIo840bm
As the game went final, the officiating crew of Marc Davis, Brent Barnaky, and Haywoode Workman had to be escorted off the floor by security amidst the jeers of an angered home crowd at the Air Canada Centre.