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Monday Bolts: 5.7.18

Brett Dawson on how the Thunder has prepared for the cost of keeping Paul George: “If it needs to — or more accurately if it gets to — OKC appears set to foot the bill. With Westbrook on a maximum contract and likely free agent Paul George due to follow suit should he choose to stay in Oklahoma City, the Thunder is looking at a roster well above the NBA’s projected $101 million salary cap limit and $123 million luxury tax threshold, one that could cost more than $260 million in salary and taxes. It’s a potentially massive bill, particularly for the core of a roster coming off a first-round playoff exit, but it’s one the Thunder wants the opportunity to pay. And the franchise’s first decade in Oklahoma City — and its future beyond 2018-19 — could make that cost more realistic than it might seem at first glance.”

Dan Favale (B/R) on why Paul George should avoid re-signing in Oklahoma City: “Regardless, no matter how you break up his free agency, the Thunder pose one of the more inferior fits. Yes, they can offer him more years (five) and larger raises (eight percent) than any other team. And sure, worst case scenario, Carmelo Anthony and his $27.9 million salary (early termination option) will come off the books after next season. But, like, where does Oklahoma City go from there? Fast forward to 2019-20, and the Thunder will have $64 million committed to just Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook. Tacking on George’s max salary—around $32.7 million in his second year—puts them at $96.7 million. Bake in Andre Roberson’s $10.7 million hit and poof! They’ll have over $107 million funneled into four players, against a projected salary cap of $108 million. Re-signing George locks the Thunder into this base. And, by extension, it ropes George to this same core. That roster rigidity doesn’t portend good times after what happened this year.”

Meanwhile, Russ & PG13 did some paintballing over the weekend:

Sam Amico (Amico Hoops) on the Thunder aiming to trade Carmelo Anthony: “While the Thunder are hoping to keep George, should he opt out of his contract and enter free agency, they are expected to be working the phones looking for a partner (or two) to make an Anthony deal work. But that won’t be easy, and it may be downright impossible. His skills may be in decline, but his salary is on the rise — as Anthony is owed $28 million next season, the final year of his contract. Couple that with the fact Anthony balked at the idea of potentially coming off the bench and … well, it’s easy to see why the Thunder might prefer to move on.”

Stephen Foote (Newshub NZ) on the rise of Kiwi icon, Steven Adams: “While the ignominy of a first-round defeat is far removed from the promise that accompanied both George and Anthony’s arrivals at Chesapeake Arena, the evolution of the kid from the wrong side of the Rotorua tracks into one of the NBA’s best big men has been the season’s gleaming silver-lining. The Kiwi has been the Thunder’s second-most important cog, one of its most consistent players, and the type of competitor that has stars across the league eyeing him with equal parts envy and respect. In a league that has long been trending beyond the arc, Adams’ throwback style of play at the centre position has proved that you don’t need your big man to shoot threes to be successful. In a sense, his play has been a renaissance, an anomaly that has reinforced the value of the good old-fashioned, hard-nosed center, the likes of which have scarcely been seen since the New York Knicks of the mid-90s.”

Berry Tramel on why the current Sixers don’t live up to the Russ/KD/Harden Thunder: “We saw something special, up close and personal. Players that good that young was a rare gift. The later disappointments of playoff defeats and Durant defecting to the Evil Empire are part of the story, absolutely, but they shouldn’t color the wonder of what we experienced. It’s a lesson in appreciating what you have when you have it. The Thunder, for all its exasperation this season, remains relevant. We’ll see what happens this summer. Maybe things will turn glorious again. Maybe the Thunder will slump. The likelihood is somewhere in the middle. But no matter what happens in the future, the past remains alive in our memory. And those salad days, when the Thunder was far better than even what the 76ers now enjoy, were quite the gift for Oklahoma.”

Frank Urbina (HoopsHype) has Carmelo Anthony at number 13 on the list of top players over 30: “One of the deadliest one-on-one scorers in NBA history, Carmelo Anthony still isn’t the guy you want to face on the perimeter with the rock in his hands. Thanks to his fantastic size for a wing, along with his quick release and lethal jab step, Anthony has forged a memorable career, one that will likely culminate with a Hall-of-Fame bid. His playing days are far from over, however. The 10-time All-Star adapted nicely into a complementary role this season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing off of Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Anthony put up 16.2 points per game in 2017-18, shooting a healthy 35.7 percent from three and playing more minutes at the 4 than ever before. This unselfish move up the positional scale helped Oklahoma City win 48 games and lock up a Top 4 seed in the loaded Western Conference. Anthony may no longer carry the load he once did, but he’s still a great option to have on the floor late in games.”

Around the League: CP3 and the Rockets are up 3-1 on Utah…. KD led the Warriors to a 3-1 lead over New Orleans…. Terry Rozier and the Celtics are up 3-0 on Philly…. An oral history of the LeBron James buzzer-beater that put Cleveland up 3-0 over Toronto…. Becky Hammon will interview for the Milwaukee coaching vacancy.