When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant in 2016, the popular sentiment was they’d have to trade Russell Westbrook. Instead, Westbrook signed an extension with Oklahoma City and threw himself into leading the small-market franchise.
Now, with the Thunder trading Paul George to the Clippers for a package centered on draft picks, Westbrook’s future in Oklahoma City has again become a major topic of conversation.
This time, it doesn’t sound as if Westbrook will recommit to the Thunder.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Trading Westbrook won’t be easy. He’s due $171,139,920 over the next four years. Westbrook is also 30, reliant on his athleticism and already showing signs of decline.
But Westbrook remains a star and a big name. It takes only one team to covet him.
A team already stuck in a difficult situations – like the Heat, Pistons, Magic, Wizards or Hornets – could pool bad contracts to deal for Westbrook. He’d provide at least a short term jolt.
How much does Oklahoma City want for Westbrook, though? Given his age and salary concerns, would the Thunder just give him away if they could? Or are they holding out for at least some positive return?
Oklahoma City could still try to compete around Westbrook, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Andre Roberson (if healthy). That’s a decent team with at least a chance of making the playoffs.
But as they trade George and Jerami Grant for draft picks, the Thunder are clearly headed in a different direction. Westbrook is apparently ready to spend the rest of his prime elsewhere rather than stick out a rebuild.