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Report: Thunder to bring back Raymond Felton on one-year deal

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz - Game Six

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 27: Raymond Felton #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks to the scoreboard in the second half during Game Six of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 27, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Jazz beat the Thunder 96-91 to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. 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 License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

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Raymond Felton filled a big need for the Thunder last season. In the couple of seasons before that, when Russell Westbrook wasn’t on the court, Oklahoma City’s second unit was a mess. It cost them against Houston in 2017 playoffs. Felton revived his career and changed that dynamic — he averaged 6.9 points per game and shot 35 percent from three, but it was more about him being a floor general and stabilizing the second unit.

Understandably the Thunder wanted him back, and the fact they were able to get him in a near veteran minimum contract is key, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Even so, the Thunder are now reaching record levels of payroll and tax.

Free-agent guard Raymond Felton has agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million deal to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder, league sources told ESPN.

Felton’s signing will push the Thunder’s payroll and luxury tax hurtling past an historic NBA threshold: $300 million. The Thunder are responsible to pay $150 million in tax on the 2018-19 season’s roster, if the roster stays intact through the end of the season.

This is a good deal for Oklahoma City, a no-brainer re-signing. He’s good on the court, good in the locker room and part of what makes OKC work.

But that tax bill is a number that would make the Lakers or Knicks balk. Thunder ownership insists for a year they are willing to pay it, they like this roster, but still look for them to make some moves to lighten that load a little either later this summer or by the trade deadline.

Carmelo Anthony, who opted into his $27.8 million for this season, becomes the obvious target to save money. However, it’s not that easy. He has a no-trade clause and at that salary the Thunder would be hard pressed to find a taker anyway. They could save a $91 million in taxes long term by waiving and stretching him (reducing his salary hit to $9.3 million a year for the next three years) but the question is how would that play with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, who consider him a brother? Anthony is not likely to agree to a buyout at a discount.

The Thunder may end up keeping Anthony around. But expect other, smaller moves to ease that tax bill.