Not many people buy it.
I don’t think anybody knows for certain what Russell Westbrook wants to do or intends to do, next summer. But that said, let’s just say there’s a very strong suspicion, a strong belief, among rival GMs that Russell Wesbtrook is not intending to stay, that he would leave next summer when he hits free agency. And because of that, the logical next step is that Sam Presti — who is always ahead of the curve on these things — will look to trade him. Now, I don’t know that that’s happening right this moment.
What I’m hearing here in Las Vegas from some GMs is that, not only do they think that Westbrook will get traded, that it will be sooner than later — probably before the season starts — and that the most likely destination right now would be the Boston Celtics.
The Thunder should trade Westbrook. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2017, and their biggest selling point — competing for championships with Durant — is out the window. Oklahoma City no longer holds enough appeal where it should feel confident in re-signing Westbrook.
Trading him before the season would also maximize the Thunder’s return. Westbrook’s next team will value his ability to help it win immediately, so getting another 50-or-so games from Westbrook before the trade deadline should improve the package suitors are willing to offer.
The Celtics make a ton of sense on paper.
Boston also has a deep and talented roster and a treasure trove of draft picks, including control of the Nets’ first-round pick the next two years. Unlike the Lakers, the Celtics have enough assets to trade for Westbrook and assemble a quality roster around him.
It also seems Boston, unlike Los Angeles, would gain a bigger advantage over outside challengers by possessing Westbrook’s Bird Rights. The Celtics might not have the sway to lure Westbrook in free agency without the advantage of higher raises and an extra season.
But that’s up to Westbrook, and that’s where this gets tricky.
It’s probably impractical to offer a trade package that appeases the Thunder without some assurance Westbrook will re-sign. Will he give that to Boston? To which teams?
That’s why this speculation from front offices goes only so far — unless they’ve heard from Westbrook’s camp. He needs to send some signals for this process to proceed.