Now that Kevin Durant has signed with the Warriors, what will the Thunder do with Russell Westbrook?
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports on The Herd:
I know this: They will not, in the short term here, be putting him out in trade talks.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he planned to take a few days after Durant’s exit to evaluate his options. Perhaps, that’s why Westbrook isn’t being shopped. Maybe Presti is just trying to create leverage and drive up offers.
Or maybe Oklahoma City actually plans to keep Westbrook, who will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The Thunder’s biggest selling point was always going to be competing for championships, but with Durant gone, that’s out the window. The ability to offer Westbrook more money probably won’t be enough to re-sign him.
I’d offer Westbrook a renegotiation and extension. In the likely event he turns that down, I’d trade him for the best package I could get before the season.
Westbrook’s expiring contract will give him say in the process. Teams will be reluctant to give up much unless he pledges to re-sign. But there should be more than enough Westbrook-approved teams that can also build a worthy trade package.
If Oklahoma City waits until the season begins, it will only lose leverage. A full season of Westbrook and the inside track to re-signing him is more valuable than a partial season of Westbrook and the inside track to re-signing him. Westbrook can put some teams over the top toward their goals, and they’ll prefer to have him all year.
Westbrook probably can’t lead the Thunder, who’ve won 10 playoff series in the past six years, to a satisfying season. They’re just too accustomed to greater accomplishments.
I believe Westbrook is committed to helping Oklahoma City as long as he’s there. I’m sure he’s embracing taking full control of this team this season.
But if the Thunder equate that with him desiring to re-sign, they’re making a mistake. Better to get what they can for him now before it’s too late.