The Oklahoma City Thunder kept their man in Russell Westbrook — but in practice only for one more year. The new contract extension allows him to opt out in 2018 and become a free agent. Meaning the Thunder have a couple of seasons to prove to Westbrook they can rebuild this team into a contender and to make sure he is happy.
Blake Griffin is expected to exercise his early termination option next summer and become a free agent (financially, he’d be stupid not to). That would be Blake Griffin, Oklahoma native who grew up and went to college in the state.
You see where this is going, and the rumors that the Thunder were eyeing Griffin existed before Kevin Durant went west. They are just will be picking up steam now. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports talked about it in his analysis of the Westbrook extension.
Now, it’s a superstar solo act – with an eye upon Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin in 2017 free agency. Griffin is an Oklahoma kid gone Hollywood, a star who has his own tensions with Chris Paul on the Clippers. For now, this is Westbrook’s chance to become a recruiter, a gatherer, and bringing back Griffin could make these Thunder a legitimate threat to Golden State in the Western Conference.
The easy part here is the fit on the court — Griffin isn’t Durant, but he plugs nicely right into the four spot next to Steven Adams in OKC. He has enough of a jumper to space the floor, attacks the rim with ferocity, is a good passer out of the post, and defends better than he gets credit for. Westbrook and Griffin with a quality core of role players around them — Adams, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson, etc. — makes a lot of sense on the court.
The harder question is, does he want to go home?
Griffin has had his friction with the Clippers and the hard-driving competitive nature of Chris Paul, but he’s also a guy who has enjoyed the advantages/trappings of living in Los Angeles year around. He lives near the beach. Heck, he’s out doing stand-up comedy (and doing it well). He likes the lifestyle.
Going home to play is not something every player wants — I’m not talking about Griffin specifically, he’s not talking about his plans yet, but in general. Going home brings added pressure, not to mention added distractions and challenges — that guy that kind of knew Griffin in college and talked to him at a party is now going to be calling asking for four tickets to a game. LeBron James heading back to Cleveland made the idea of going home fashionable with fans, but the reality is a lot of players who love where they grew up don’t want to go back and play there.
Griffin may or may not want to go home, may or may not like the idea of trading in CP3 for Westbrook. But the Thunder are going to try to find out.