by BetAmerica Staff 

Believe it or not, the team with the highest payroll heading in to the season is the 2019 Oklahoma City Thunder with a whopping $146,789,174. That seems like a lot for a team that doesn’t seem able to pace with the Houston Rockets nor the Golden State Warriors. In fact, the Thunder are the first real long shot in NBA Championship futures with a +4000 mark inbetween the Toronto Raptors at +1600 and the San Antonio Spurs at +5000.

However, the seismic shift created by securing Paul George for $139.6 million over four more seasons cannot be overstated. This is the power signing that every, small market team prays for. Keeping George in a Thunder uniform legitimizes this franchise as a perrenial contender no matter what you think about their chances down the road. Every  fanbase just wants to support a competitive team. Mission accomplished.

Just as important as keeping talent is shedding dead weight. You guessed it – we’re talking about Carmelo Anthony. One of the reasons to get a bit more excited about the 2019 Oklahoma City Thunder is the absence of Anthony, a well-past-his-prime superstar that doesn’t offer much outside of shooting. And to that point, Anthony is by no means the scorer he once was and has never been a credible defender.

If anything, trading Anthony for Dennis Schroeder fills a void that the team has desperately needed since losing Reggie Evans to the Pistons for an obscene amount of money. The beauty about the Schroeder acquisition – outside of dumping Melo and gaining a stealthy backup at the point – is that Schroeder’s contract extends through 2021.

“It remains a mystery as to why George never matriculated to the Los Angeles Lakers…”

That’s the same year that Westbrook, Steven Adams, Paul George (presumably since he has a player option) and quite literally everyone else on the 2019 Oklahoma City Thunder come off the books. The team has literally zero dollars committed to the 2021-22 NBA season and has essentially gone all-in on this roster.

“Well they’re not gonna win a championship,” is what a snarky NBA fan says. That’s not a certainty to begin with, but if you’re that high on the Golden State Warriors then you can say the exact same thing about the 29 other teams in the league heading in to the upcoming NBA betting campaign.

It remains a mystery as to why George never matriculated to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team he was long associated with throughout this past season. Nobody outside of Westbrook and general manager Sam Presti envisioned George as part of the 2019 Oklahoma City Thunder. Now that he’s locked in, the team can focus on the unfinished business it started when they became relevant.

With George committed for the next three years, and without Melo doing more harm than good, the Thunder don’t have anything holding them back. They have a lot to do to make up for their horrific 34-47-1 ATS record which was one of the worst in the league last year. There’s also no doubt that the team has to prove that the early playoff exit against the Jazz last spring was happenstance.

Surrounding the now dialed tandem of Westbrook and George is a tight rotation of useful and effective role players. Steven Adams is both severely underrated overall while also serving as one of the best centers in the league. Andre Roberson is a strangely impactful glue guy, and by far their best perimeter defender. With Roberson in the fold, the Thunder skyrocketed out to a 22-8 SU record to begin the new year. Then he went down with a season ending injury, the team was forced to play Melo more often, and…well you know the rest of the sad story.

The Thunder aren’t a great pick to go all the way given that the Rockets and Warriors exist, but they’re a much better flier play than they were last year. There are fewer distractions, including the one that revolved around George bolting for Hollywood. The 2019 Oklahoma City Thunder are the team to beat in the competitive Northwest division, the most grueling the league has.

Beyond that they’re no longer this random afterthought in terms of the big picture. That was a daunting concern once Kevin Durant left for the Warriors and it’s something the team doesn’t have to stress themselves with anymore. Make no mistake about it – the Thunder project as the third best team in the Western Conference.

The 2018-19 season begins on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018!