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The Thunder Made the Most of Melo’s Exit

Oklahoma City parted ways with Carmelo Anthony, but it was able to fill out its reserve unit on his way out the door. Here’s what OKC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Melo got out of the three-team trade.

Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Thunder exactly 299 days ago. July 19 marks the end of Melo as an Oklahoman, but his post–New York tenure feels like it lasted years. In a multi-team deal announced Thursday, the Thunder sent Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round pick to the Hawks in exchange for Dennis Schröder, tax relief, and peace of mind. The Sixers also dealt Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Thunder and Justin Anderson to the Hawks for Mike Muscala in return. Melo, who turned out to be the most boring part of this trade, is expected to be bought out by Atlanta. Here’s a look at what each comes away with:

Oklahoma City

Sent out: Anthony, 2022 first-round pick (protected 1–14 in the first year, then becomes two second-rounders)
Received: Schröder, Luwawu-Cabarrot

Finding a way out of the $28 million remaining on Melo’s contract is a win by itself, saving the team almost $100 million total in salary and luxury tax payments, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Had general manager Sam Presti decided to waive Anthony using the stretch provision, it would’ve cost OKC $9.3 million per year for the next three years. The deal functions almost like a buyout for the Thunder — Schröder’s and Luwawu-Cabarrot’s contracts add up to only $17 million, saving the team $11 million in salary this season when measured next to what Melo would’ve been owed — all while adding a helpful player to their reserve unit rather than dead money.

Schröder is a considerable upgrade over Ray Felton, Russell Westbrook’s primary backup last season. Schröder led the Hawks in scoring last season with 19.4 points, and started virtually every game he’s played in for the past two seasons. Coming off the bench may be an adjustment for the 24-year-old, but if he accepts the role, Westbrook might actually be able to catch his breath for more than two possessions. Luwawu-Cabarrot is also intriguing, given the dearth of reliable shooting on the Thunder’s depth chart. The 24th overall pick in 2016 hasn’t lived up to his reputation as a plus shooter in his two seasons in Philadelphia, having shot 32.3 percent from 3 over 121 career games. Patellar tendinitis and inconsistency decelerated his sophomore campaign, but TLC could become a part of the Thunder’s rotation.

Philadelphia

Sent out: Luwawu-Cabarrot, Anderson
Received: Muscala

Reaching for Muscala seems like an emergency Nemanja Bjelica replacement for Philadelphia. After agreeing to a one-year, $4.4 million deal, Bjelica backed out for family reasons and is considering playing overseas unless a long-term offer materializes. The former Wolves forward would have filled the role Ersan Ilyasova played last season as a backup stretch 4 who could provide space for Philly’s two young stars. After Bjelica bailed, the Sixers were once again missing that key bench piece. As a 6-foot-11 37.8 percent career shooter from deep, Muscala can certainly fill that role. A couple years down the road, we’ll know whether or not it was worth parting ways with Anderson’s and Luwawu-Cabarrot’s potential.

Atlanta

Sent out: Schröder, Muscala
Received: Anthony, Anderson, protected 2022 first-round pick

The Hawks are playing the long game beautifully. While putting together a young foundation of John Collins, Trae Young, and Taurean Prince, the front office has used its reserve of cap space to stack future first-rounders. While other franchises have overcommitted the past two seasons, Atlanta’s conservative approach has allowed it to rent out its cap space for assets. Anderson is another youngish (24) forward with room to grow. Like former teammate Luwawu-Cabarrot, Anderson’s growth was partially stunted because of an injury. He played just 38 games for Philadelphia last season, in part because of shin splints and recurring tibial stress syndrome in his left leg. (He had surgery last month to correct the latter.) But the real get for Atlanta is the pick. They have all of their own future firsts, and are also owed firsts from Cleveland, Dallas, and now OKC.

Carmelo Anthony

Received: Freedom

Once the expected buyout is finalized, Melo will be free to sign wherever he wants. According to ESPN, the front-runner is Houston, where buddy Chris Paul and former coach Mike D’Antoni await. (D’Antoni, whom Anthony is believed to have gotten fired in New York, probably wasn’t as much a selling point as CP3.) If he does go to Houston, the Rockets will look a lot different from the team that pushed the Warriors to seven games in this year’s Western Conference finals. The defense was already going to suffer after losing Trevor Ariza (who signed with Phoenix) and Luc Mbah a Moute (Clippers). Carmelo, who can’t (won’t?) contribute on that end and prefers the midrange on the other, doesn’t make for an ideal replacement. On the Thunder, he scoffed at the idea of coming off the bench at all.