A lot needs to happen if the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to trade Russell Westbrook, and even that might be an understatement.
After Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors this summer, attention quickly turned to Westbrook, the Thunder guard who has one more year left on his contract.
With Durant out of the fold, many quickly wondered whether trading Westbrook is OKC’s best plan. That might be the case, but it won’t be easy.
CelticsBlog.com reported early Monday morning, citing a league source, that the Thunder still are trying to sign Westbrook to a contract extension. That’s unlikely to happen, which means a trade could be the next option.
That’s where the real issue arise. Westbrook is one of the NBA’s best players, so the Thunder obviously (and rightfully) expect a huge return in any deal for the guard. Any team trading for Westbrook, however, without a long-term guarantee is trading for a player with only one year left on a contract.
“No team is going to pay a hefty price without getting a commitment from Westbrook,” the source told CelticsBlog.com. “Someone may pay a cheaper price without a commitment, but OKC probably doesn’t do a deal like that.”
The report also stated the decision ultimately hinges on what Westbrook wants to do, as “he controls his destiny,” according to the source.
That means the Thunder and Westbrook would need to find a team he wants to play for, and that team also needs the assets to acquire him while also having the salary cap space to sign arguably one of the NBA’s top five players.
With that in mind, it’s probably no surprise that CelticsBlog.com’s source also indicates a trade “probably isn’t going to happen.”
The Boston Celtics, one would imagine, would have to be on a short list of teams that could acquire Westbrook. Boston has plenty of young talent, in addition to the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round draft picks in 2017 and 2018. They also could find the cap room if they were able to somehow pull off a trade.
It also would be interesting to see if a team like the Los Angeles Lakers somehow becomes a player. Westbrook was born in Long Beach, went to high school 14 miles from Staples Center and played his college basketball at UCLA. The Lakers drafted some promising young players in recent years and have some newfound financial flexibility now that Kobe Bryant has retired.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images