Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti and his team have done some great things this summer and we’re not just talking about convincing Nas to come to Oklahoma on a Saturday night.
While more talent swirls around the NBA in another free-wheeling summer of free agency, OKC has kept its team in tact, bringing back Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton and making the biggest splash they could right away with the re-signing of Paul George on a 4-yr/$137 million deal.
Carmelo Anthony recently topped off the status quo moves, opting into the last year of his contract with the Thunder, but it now seems like only the first step in a process to see Melo out the door.
Recent news has broken out that the Thunder are reportedly cutting ties with Melo after he recently opted into the final year of his contract. They are exploring options via trade, buyout or just straight releasing him. I do not blame Melo from securing the bag, but the Thunder needed to make this move for various reasons and maybe this can be a reality check for Melo’s future in the league.
Transitioning Melo out of OKC saves the Thunder money. Presti has made it clear that he is willing to have a hefty payroll and pay a huge luxury tax bill after all the free agent signings, which right now is a historic $310 million. If they choose to remove Melo from their roster, it could be over $100 million in cost savings. Besides saving money, OKC will also save current chemistry issues between Melo, the coaching staff and the direction the franchise is moving.
Melo has always been known as a scoring machine, but the former scoring champion and 10 time all-star struggled this past season compared to previous seasons, only averaging 16 points and five rebounds on 40 percent shooting and 35% from three, all career lows. Playing in a system where your are accustom to being the main option on a team and are being forced to drop as the third option, those numbers are expected, however, when you are not willing to adjust or adapt in that new role, that makes the situation worse.
Melo still believes that he is the same player as he was when young Melo entered the league in 2003, and has openly stated that he is only a starter and will not come off the bench. Unfortunately, we all know Melo can contribute, but not at the rate that he once could, and the time is now for him to adjust into a bench player role to aid a championship contending in desperate need of depth in their second units. The Rockets, Lakers and Miami Heat are reportedly asking for his services, and he can be useful in either of those franchises, especially with the Rockets.
The Rockets are Melo’s best chance of winning while still being a big piece to a championship contender. They lost some firepower with Trevor Ariza leaving for the Suns, and they have no one that can fill that void offensively. Melo may not be fit for D’Antoni’s fast paced offense, but in the half-court offense he can be a knock down shooter for them and when needed, can be a go-to playmaker in crucial moments, especially for their second unit. Anthony’s relationship with Chris Paul can help make that transition smooth, and he can play for a team that has a chance to win championships.
The Miami Heat are not in a position to win, but at the same time Miami is a team that can allow him to be himself as a playmaker with the potential to be in the starting lineup, something he wants no matter where he goes next season. The Lakers already have enough playmakers and quite frankly does not make sense to me as an ideal situation, but they also have LeBron James. James has a friendship with Melo, and as the ultimate playmaker, James would know how to implement Melo’s talent into a complex offensive system.
If Melo really wants to put himself in a winning position he has to become more humble and do whatever means necessary to help a team win, which includes coming off the bench as a leader of the second unit and sacrificing playing time. Melo must do whatever it takes to revive his career or he will become the next Allen Iverson, a ring-less player that disintegrated out of the league due to pride and egos.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio