By signing Russell Westbrook to a three- year extension, the Thunder bought themselves something that very few franchises get: more time. That’s right, the Thunder are essentially paying $26.5 million next year for more time. Giving Westbrook that extension allows the Thunder to not have to make potentially franchise-altering decisions in a short span of time.
Before pen was put to paper, the Thunder had about six weeks to figure out if Westbrook was going to resign with them, or if he was going to hit the market after the upcoming season, as was his right. Obviously, that isn’t a whole lot of time for the Thunder to figure out if they have to trade or keep one of the best players in the league. And that’s what made any hypothetical decision so difficult. Westbrook is, by any measure, one of the best players in the league. I also tend to agree with Bill Simmons when he says Westbrook is one of the few players you can build an elite, title-contending team around. So the fact that he is staying in OKC is good for that franchise.
If Westbrook had indicated to the Thunder between now and around October that he wasn’t interested in resigning at this time, they would have had to trade him. They just lost Durant for nothing, they couldn’t afford to lose another top ten player for nothing. However, now they don’t have to worry about that as of right now. The Thunder have one or two years to figure out what they are doing with their franchise. Westbrook could decide to leave, but the Thunder will have plenty of time to prepare for that now. They will not be under pressure to trade him quickly, as they did with Harden when they shipped him to Houston.
Of course, Westbrook could choose to stay. The Thunder can free up space to extend Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, and still have the space to sign another max player to pair with Westbrook. One such player could be Oklahoma native Blake Griffin, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season(he has a player option after this season, and it would be a dumb decision as of right now for him not to exercise that option). Putting Griffin in OKC along with Westbrook, Adams, and Oladipo would give the Thunder one of the better teams in the West and in the league.
The Thunder now have an extra year or two to convince Westbrook to sign a long-term extension once he has ten service years. That could be all the time they need. It also assures that they will still have Westbrook on their team in the short term. This was also the best move for Westbrook, as it guarantees him more money in the next two years, while also letting him hit the market when he can make the most money. The Thunder bought themselves more time, which is extremely valuable.
Ted Van Green
Spark Sports Analyst.