Late Friday night (or early Saturday morning for some) Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers teamed up to shake the NBA landscape. While Leonard’s free agency had remained one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the offseason, he opted to surprise many fans and analysts by signing with the Clippers. But that was just the start of the fun.
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported, the Clippers struck a trade to bring Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George to town, pairing him up with Leonard in the process. Per Woj, Leonard pushed to find a way to get George to the Clippers and that resulted in his choice to sign there, although it cost Los Angeles a huge haul.
As seen above, the deal included five first-round picks, four of which are unprotected, two pick swaps, second-year guard Shai Gilgeous Alexander and forward Danilo Gallinari in exchange for George. It was a deal tough to envision any other team topping, and the Clippers wound up with their target while the Thunder picked up the pieces to build a strong core for the future.
But beyond that news, it seems Oklahoma City may not be finished with the wheeling and dealing. As The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported, Russell Westbrook’s future is “in question,” while Hoops Hype’s Alex Kennedy says to “not be surprised” if the Thunder trade their star guard.
With the potential of a deal on the table, we’re going to take a look at a few of the top potential landing spots for Westbrook. This begins with two teams who were big factors in 2019 NBA free agency and the pursuit of multiple top stars.
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Russell Westbrook Trade Fit: Toronto Raptors
The chatter following the deal which sent George to the Clippers was that the Toronto Raptors had also been in the conversation for a potential trade which could help bring Leonard back to town. Obviously, that didn’t pan out, but could the Raptors opt to swing for the fences and acquire Westbrook now?
Although losing Leonard obviously hurts, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Raptors didn’t have the assets to beat out the Clippers, although they reportedly did opt against trading Pascal Siakam. While the offer from Los Angeles proved to be the best, could things look different if Toronto makes a push for the star point guard?
It’s a major unknown, but Raptors president Masai Ujiri has proven to be ready and willing to make deals that will keep his team as a legitimate contender. The Raptors might not have the assets to land Westbrook, but they should still consider kicking the tires on it.
Will Knicks Turn Free Agency Misses Into Russell Westbrook Trade?
As interesting as it would be to see the New York Knicks make a deal for Westbrook, they find themselves in a potentially tough spot to do so. The team missed out on the top-tier free agents but proceeded to add some strong options including Julius Randle and Bobby Portis. The Knicks also struck deals with Reggie Bullock and Taj Gibson, helping to round out their roster for the 2019-20 season.
The good news is that New York has team options on each player for the final year of their contract, and only Randle was signed for more than one season. That doesn’t help the fact that between those four players, the Knicks have more than $55 million in cap space tied up this season, as Spotrac revealed.
Even beyond that, the Knicks gave Wayne Ellington just under $8 million (estimated) and Elfrid Payton around the same, per Spotrac. That’s less than ideal for a potential trade, as the Knicks wouldn’t be able to move these players until around December.
But one hypothetical to consider is the scenario where both the Thunder and Knicks aren’t legitimate contenders this season once December rolls around. At that point, would Oklahoma City be willing to take on a few talented players with somewhat team-friendly contract structures, along with a few picks in exchange for Westbrook?
If he’s still on the roster at that point, it should be considered a legitimate option.
Wizards, Timberwolves Worth Watching for Russell Westbrook Trade
With the long-term outlook of John Wall with the Washington Wizards up in the air, his status for this season alone is very much in question. Wall suffered a ruptured Achilles and could miss all of the 2019-20 season. Even putting the injury aside, it would seem unlikely that the Thunder would attempt to acquire Wall in a deal which sends Westbrook out of town unless there were a number of valuable assets and/or players added to it.
Regardless, the Wizards’ need at point guard this season is a talking point, and if the team’s front office opts to make a few drastic changes and shake things up, adding Westbrook would avoid a massive rebuild. He’d step in and keep the Wizards in the mix as a playoff team in the Eastern Conference and they’d be able to build around a player with one of the highest ceilings in the NBA.
Let’s also not ignore the Minnesota Timberwolves, especially after we found out that Karl-Anthony Towns was recruiting throughout the offseason and free agency. There have been rumblings that the Timberwolves want to trade Andrew Wiggins, but moving his contract won’t be easy and there didn’t appear to be a ton of interested suitors at the time.
With that said, the Timberwolves were focused on attempting to add a point guard this offseason but didn’t manage to land a top-tier player like they surely wanted. Acquiring Westbrook and pairing him with Towns would be huge for Minnesota, and a move which immediately bolsters both their immediate and long-term outlook.