The Oklahoma City Thunder succeeded in their biggest challenge this summer, convincing Paul George to stick around with a four-year deal. Now, they're reportedly preparing to deal with their other big issue: what to do with Carmelo Anthony. The former All-Star opted in to the final year of his deal earlier this summer, but while he did so it was clear the Thunder didn't have plans for him to have a big role next season.
That, coupled with the fact that the Thunder are facing a historic $300M-plus cost for their roster this season resulted in the obvious choice to part ways with Anthony. Which, the Thunder are reportedly planning to do. At this point it's not clear whether the Thunder will trade Anthony or just buy him out, but he will not be suiting up for the Thunder next season.
According to SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh, that's good news for the Thunder, whose playoff and title chances improve without Anthony.
This, as Oh shows, is the epitome of addition by subtraction. In the end, it was probably a good gamble to take for the Thunder to acquire Anthony. You need as much talent as possible to challenge for a title, and Anthony was one of the only high-talent players available for the Thunder. It obviously didn't work, as Anthony was further past his prime than people realized.
And now, it's a good decision for the Thunder to part ways. For one, there's the money, and two, there's Anthony's reluctance to play more of a reserve role. But neither of those explains why the Thunder would get better without Anthony in the SportsLine projections.
Simply put: Anthony was not good last season. He averaged career-low numbers with just 16.2 points per game, while shooting only 40.4 percent from the field. And he did so while taking 15 shots a night, and using nearly a quarter of the Thunder's possessions. It's pretty easy to realize, then, that removing Anthony would help the Thunder. Most likely more of those shots will go to the likes of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, each of whom were far more efficient than Anthony last season.
Plus, Anthony at this point in his career was not a good defensive player. While the Thunder were actually one of the better defensive teams last season, it was in spite of Anthony, not because of anything he was doing. Not having to worry about covering for him on that end should help their defense get even better.
Now, the Thunder are still highly unlikely to actually get past the Warriors in the West, but it's clear why moving Anthony gives them a slightly better chance.