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Carmelo Anthony Free Agency Decision: 10-Time All-Star Will Reportedly Opt-In With Thunder

A general view of the Oklahoma City Thunder's court.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 14: Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat go after the opening tip to start Game Two of the 2012 NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 14, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Carmelo Anthony will not be back on the free agent market this off-season, according to the New York Times. After perhaps his worst professional season, he is planning to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Anthony was traded to Oklahoma City during the 2017 off-season after demanding a trade from the New York Knicks. The franchise formed what it thought would prove to be a "Big Three" with then-defending MVP Russell Westbrook and Paul George, which it acquired from the Indiana Pacers.

Westbrook was not quite the dynamo that he was in 2016-17, but he once again averaged a triple-double. George had some quiet moments, but was still a solid player for the Thunder.

Anthony, however, was a major disappointment. He posted career lows in minutes per game (32.1) and points (16.2) and missed his first All-Star Game since 2009.

With Carmelo Anthony opting in, he is set to make almost $28 million on the season.

He would get nowhere near that much on the open market, so this wasn't exactly an unexpected decision. From Marc Stein's report:

Anthony has until Saturday at midnight (Eastern) to exercise the option that would make him a free agent July 1 — provided he were willing to walk away from the $27.9 million he is owed next season. But he is planning to let the deadline pass quietly and keep his current contract in effect, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

There is a chance the Thunder may still try to move on, however. Buyout negotiations are a possibility, especially as the Thunder attempt to resign George. Most assumed that he would look to move on to the Los Angeles Lakers, but he may lean towards staying with Westbrook.

Letting the deadline pass will lock in Anthony’s full salary for next season but doesn’t guarantee that he will continue his career in Oklahoma City. Anthony announced after the Thunder’s first-round exit last season that he could not stomach returning in 2018-19 in the same limited role, which raises the possibility that the sides could pursue buyout negotiations this off-season.

[...]

Thanks to the hefty contracts already possessed by Westbrook, Anthony and the center Steven Adams, the Thunder’s tax bill could approach the $80 million range if George were to be brought back on a new deal expected to start at a maximum salary of $30.3 million.

Because of that looming money crunch, Oklahoma City and Anthony could be candidates for a separation before the start of next season — even if Anthony sticks to his plan to bypass Saturday’s pricey opportunity to become a free agent of his own accord.

If Anthony is bought out, he could be a candidate to chase a ring elsewhere. However, that could involve taking a diminished role, something he's said he doesn't want to do in OKC.

[New York Times]