When the blockbuster trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers involving Paul George came to light, there were all kinds of rumors and reports which began to swirl. But one that picked up steam quickly was the talk involving the Thunder potentially trading point guard Russell Westbrook at some point in the near future.
A number of teams could be options for Westbrook in a deal, but his contract will be a major talking point and a potential hold up as well. The Thunder star signed a five-year deal worth $206,794,070 and the salary cap hit is set to increase in each season through the end of it. As Spotrac details, Westbrook has a cap number of just over $38.506 million this year, followed by more than $41.358 million in 2020-21 and $44.211 million in 2021-22.
Even beyond the set salary cap numbers which lie ahead, Westbrook also has a player option in 2022-23 worth more than $47 million. This contract has led to the question of which teams could really be in the mix to acquire the 30-year-old All-Star via trade, and the topic was addressed on Saturday night.
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Miami Heat May Benefit From Clippers’ Trade for Paul George
During the 2019 NBA Summer League action on Saturday night in Las Vegas, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski came on the broadcast to talk about the Clippers trade for George along with Westbrook’s future. During the interview, Woj was asked about potential teams that could take on the guard’s contract and options which fit the profile as a possible trade partner.
Not only did the NBA insider point to the Miami Heat, but they were the only team he even mentioned. He also pointed out that the Heat could benefit in a potential deal due to the massive haul which the Clippers sent the Thunder for George.
“I think the Miami Heat fit that profile. They’ve been a team that’s been capped out. They had to do a sign-and-trade with Philadelphia to get Jimmy Butler in there. Westbrook fits the kind of profile of a star level player, just 30 years old, and that is a lot of money. Could Oklahoma City just be satisfied with getting the contract off, taking some money back that might have shorter-term implications for them?” Wojnarowski stated.
“They got so much in the Clipper deal – five first-round picks, four of them unprotected, two pick swaps, which really can serve as having an additional pick in the future. They could look here with Westbrook, if they do a deal, not to have the pressure of having to bring back such a great return because they got a historic return for Paul George.” he concluded.
Wojnarowski’s point about the massive return the Thunder received for George makes sense, especially when factoring in the size of Westbrook’s deal. But when evaluating what the Clippers sent Oklahoma City, it’ll be interesting to monitor how much less they’d accept for the All-NBA guard.
Heat’s Outlook for Possible Westbrook Trade After George Deal
Wojnarowski was the first to report the trade which will pair George with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers. The Thunder received the aforementioned five first-round picks (four unprotected), along with second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and forward Danilo Gallinari.
The primarily talking point in a possible deal with the Heat would be the number of future draft picks that could be included. One noteworthy issue is the fact that Miami’s 2021 and 2023 first-round selections have already been traded, along with seven second-round picks from 2020 to 2026, per RealGM.
In terms of potential players who could be moved, the Heat have a number of decent-sized contracts which are a bit more team-friendly than Westbrook’s. If they were to include Goran Dragic and his cap hit of more than $19.217 million, his contract would come off the books after the 2019-20 season, as Spotrac shows.
James Johnson is set to make over $15 million this season and has a player option in 2020-21 to wrap up his deal. Kelly Olynyk is in a similar spot but has a cap hit north of $12.667 million in 2019-20 and a player option which features a cap number above $13.198 million the year after.
The Heat have options to add into a trade for Westbrook, along with picks and possibly a younger player or two on a team-friendly deal. If Miami wants to push to make a deal happen, it appears the opportunity will at least be on the table.