Thunder to Become 1st Team in NBA History to Top $300M in Salary and Luxury Tax

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Paul George #13, Carmelo Anthony #7 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talk during the game against the Sacramento Kings on February 22, 2018 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Oklahoma City Thunder agreed Tuesday to a one-year deal with Raymond Felton, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, which will push the franchise into uncharted financial territory.

Bobby Marks of ESPN noted the Thunder will be the first team in NBA history to hit $300 million between the team payroll and luxury-tax bill:

Bobby Marks @BobbyMarks42

Oklahoma City crosses an historic threshold as the first $300M team in salary and projected luxury tax with the Raymond Felton signing. The Thunder now have a tax bill of $150M.

Carmelo Anthony is set to make $27.9 million in 2017-18, so finding a way to either dump his contract or spread the salary-cap hit over three years would alleviate some of Oklahoma City's financial burden:

Nate Duncan @NateDuncanNBA

So with PG and Grant back, the Thunder would be looking at a salary plus repeater tax bill of $289.9 mm, w/out filling out roster. Stretch Melo, and that drops to $180.3 mm. So they could save over $100 mm by stretching a player who hurt them in the playoffs last year.

Spotrac @spotrac

The #Thunder are now $36M over the luxury cap, which equates to a tax bill north of $154M (previous high were the 2013-14 #Nets at $90.6M). Stretching (waiving) Carmelo Anthony saves $17.1M in cap, and around $90M in tax payment (assuming he’s replaced by a minimum salary).

On one hand, it's surprising to see ownership shell out so much for a roster that didn't get out of the first round of the 2018 playoffs. At the same time, losing Paul George would've erased any hope the Thunder had of challenging for a top-four seed.

Plenty of fans have contrasted the suddenly free-spending version of the team with the one that traded James Harden to avoid paying the luxury tax. While that frustration is understandable, owner Clay Bennett is at least atoning for that mistake with this offseason.

If Bennett could go back in time, then he would probably do whatever it took to keep Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook together. Instead, he can only operate in the present, at which time the Thunder have to capitalize on Westbrook's prime years.

The alternatives to spending $300 million to retain George and make other moves were trading Westbrook and starting over or having Steven Adams as the second-best player behind Westbrook. Either scenario gets pretty bleak pretty quickly.

Sure, the Thunder's financial commitment is eye-popping, but it was their only move. And it doesn't mean too much in the grand scheme of things.


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