Following the Oklahoma City Thunder’s blockbuster trade which sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, the speculation around Russell Westbrook’s future began quickly. But after the first wave of rumors and rumblings started, they didn’t cool off in the slightest, and since that point, Westbrook has been linked to a number of teams via trade.
Obviously, whether the Thunder are able to make a trade happen, moving Westbrook’s contract and essentially beginning a full-blown rebuild, is unknown but it appears to be very possible. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported (via Tim MacMahon), the star guard and his agent have spoken with Thunder general manager Sam Presti about his future.
Among the options? A trade which could come before the 2019-20 season.
In the aftermath of the trade that sent Paul George to the LA Clippers, Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher, engaged with Thunder general manager Sam Presti about the next step of the point guard’s career, including the possibility of a trade before next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
This isn’t considered all that surprising, but numerous teams have emerged as options for Westbrook, and thus far, there’s been at least five if not more. We’re going to take a look at the latest teams linked and a few who could make sense as trade destinations.
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Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat ‘Very Real’ Options for Westbrook Trade
While the Miami Heat were one of the teams linked to Westbrook fairly early on, the Detroit Pistons, who are known to have a need at point guard have emerged. They still have Reggie Jackson, and also made an interesting signing in Derrick Rose, who’s fresh off an impressive comeback season. It’s likely that Rose will carve out decent minutes, but Westbrook would obviously be a top-tier upgrade over any current option.
The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Brett Dawson were the first to report the interest from the Pistons. They cited that both the Heat and Pistons are “very real possibilities as potential landing spots” for Westbrook.
Beyond that, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski joined the 2019 NBA Summer League broadcast on Saturday night and spoke about Westbrook’s future. He cited the Heat as a team who fit the profile and make sense as an option to acquire the Thunder guard.
“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.
Wojnarowski also made an interesting comment which could benefit not only the Heat but any team who gets into the mix for Westbrook. As he explained, the massive haul which the Thunder received for George (including five first-round picks), could create a situation where Oklahoma City doesn’t feel like they need to get a massive return in a Westbrook deal.
“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,” said Wojnarowski.
This could be a big positive for teams eyeing a potential trade, as the Thunder’s primary focus may be on moving Westbrook’s massive contract while also adding a few pieces for the future.
Knicks a Possible Option, but Not Until December
As Marc Berman of the New York Post explained, a potential New York Knicks trade for Westbrook couldn’t work until December. But at that point, things could get interesting assuming the guard is still a member of the Thunder. That may be a longshot, but the Knicks would have a number of intriguing options and an avenue to possibly make a deal work.
The Knicks have signed six free agents and as Berman points out, are left with just $4 million in cap space currently. But on December 15, the players signed this offseason could be dealt to Oklahoma City along with future first-round picks in an effort to land Westbrook.
The new Knicks sextet can’t be traded until Dec. 15, under rules of the NBA collective bargaining agreement, once they put pen to paper. Of course, the Knicks can renege on their deals, but that’s unlikely to happen.
This remains an unlikely option, but if by some chance a deal doesn’t come for Westbrook this offseason, the Knicks are a team to watch just prior to the new calendar year.
Rockets May Want in, but Trading for Westbrook Will Be Tough
The Houston Rockets have been a popular topic of conversation this offseason, as various rumblings about the roster potentially being shaken up are floating around. And when Westbrook’s name popped up as a possible trade option, it wasn’t surprising to hear that the Rockets had an interest, as ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported.
Unfortunately, as MacMahon explains, one source pointed to the Rockets as a “long shot.” This is due to the team’s current salary cap situation and the fact that it would likely need to be a multi-team trade.
One Rockets source, however, described trading for Westbrook as a “long shot” due to the challenge of finding pieces that fit with the Thunder or pulling off a complicated multiteam deal.
He proceeds to point out the fact that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has consistently pursued stars aggressively, including Houston being linked to Jimmy Butler this offseason. Chris Paul’s contract, which has $125 million remaining over three years would be a nice piece to include, but it’s not an incredibly appealing trade chip.
Russell Westbrook Trade Watch: Spurs, Timberwolves & Bulls
Of the teams above, only the San Antonio Spurs have been included in any chatter for a possible Westbrook trade. With that said, there was no report or rumor, just an interesting thought from Hoops Hype’s Alex Kennedy. As Kennedy explained, the Spurs make sense as a potential dark horse for the Thunder guard, citing a good culture fit and how Westbrook and Gregg Popovich could work together.
A potential Popovich-Westbrook pairing would be dangerous right out of the gate, especially if the Spurs were able to avoid tearing apart their core to acquire the guard.
Going beyond just the teams cited as fits for Westbrook, the Minnesota Timberwolves are another team worth mentioning. The Timberwolves and center Karl-Anthony Towns were said to be actively pursuing a top free agent this offseason but were unable to land any of the biggest names. Minnesota could upgrade at point guard by adding Westbrook and giving him a chance to play alongside one of the NBA’s most talented young big men in Towns.
One other team which has been talked about a bit during the Westbrook chatter is the Chicago Bulls, but I’m not entirely sure that hopping on board with it makes much sense. Assuming the Bulls play rookie Coby White at point guard, they could easily choose to keep their young core intact and build around it.
White, Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter are among Chicago’s young and talented pieces. The Bulls are trending the right direction in terms of talent, and I’m not sure they’d slam the brakes on the current roster that’s been built in an effort to add Westbrook.
Regardless, one thing we know is that the Thunder are likely to receive a number of offers for Westbrook. As far as what type of deal they’ll seek, that remains a big question mark and will surely be make-or-break for many teams.