Since Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, the biggest question mark in NBA circles is whether or not the Thunder will decide to trade Russell Westbrook.
According to Bleacher Report, the Thunder could look to move Westbrook sooner rather than later.
Considering GM Sam Presti’s track record, trading Westbrook shouldn’t surprise anyone. In the past, Presti has traded away nearly every star who he knew was bound to leave them. It happened with James Harden a few years ago, and most recently it happened with Serge Ibaka, who the Thunder sent to Orlando on draft night.
OKC had to ride it out with Durant, as they were seen as the heavy favorite to retain his services. But after losing one top-five player for nothing, OKC can’t afford to let it happen again.
Unless Presti is completely convinced Russ will be with OKC for the long haul, he has to explore the trade market for him. And according to this report, it seems Russ might be hesitant to commit long-term.
The market for Westbrook should be very interesting. Since he’ll be a free agent next summer, no team is going to surrender a ton of assets for him unless they know he’ll re-sign. Therefore, OKC will be limited to trading him to a select few teams. Let’s take a look at some potential Russell Westbrook trades we could see before the start of the NBA season.
The Celtics certainly have the assets to pull off a trade for Westbrook, and they are the reported likely destination. With Al Horford now in Boston, Russ might actually want to stay there long-term. If the Celts were to give up Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Brooklyn’s first-rounder in exchange for Westbrook, that would probably be a big enough haul for OKC to accept the deal. Particularly since Brooklyn could have the worst record in the league this season, that pick will be very attractive. This would be a big risk for Boston to take, but Westbrook would make them the clear 2nd best team in the East. And that should be enough to convince him to stick around.
Los Angeles Lakers
Westbrook grew up in Los Angeles, went to UCLA, and has the personality to be the star of the Lakers. Therefore, trading for him would not be an enormous risk for the Lakers. He’d likely be willing to stick around, and trading for him during the season would give the Lakers a chance to offer him the most money this summer. If LA sent Ingram, Russell, and Larry Nance to the Thunder, it would give OKC a nice young core of guys in return. With that being said, the Lakers front office should try to avoid giving up Ingram, Russell, or too many assets, since there’s a solid chance they could keep those guys around and sign Westbrook in free agency without having to surrender multiple assets. If Westbrook is put on the market, LA will surely go after him. But what they’re willing to give up will be interesting.
Miami is a likely team to enter the Westbrook sweepstakes, as they are always interested in the big name guys. Just like Los Angeles, Miami is another city where Westbrook’s style of play and attitude would fit in. And with Wade in Chicago, Russ would immediately become the new face of the franchise. Pat Riley would have to give up Goran Dragic and likely Justice Winslow, which would be hard for OKC to turn down. With Dragic locked into his contract for a few more seasons, OKC would get some stability at the point guard position and a promising young talent in Winslow.