Now that Kevin Durant has signed with the Golden State Warriors, the future of Russell Westbrook has become the immediate worst kept secret in basketball.
Russ simply isn’t finishing the season in OKC. He might not even start it there.
It’s a risky move for any team acquiring Westbrook since he could bounce after a single season with them (he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2017).
The rest of the league knows OKC has to act on this, but after trading James Harden to Houston for nothing back in 2012 and letting KD walk for nothing, the price on Westbrook has to be steep — especially considering multiple teams will be bidding against each other.
The king of fashion statements probably has never envisioned his career in Minnesota. But if he can bring himself to simply focus on the basketball aspect, this could be a hell of a team. If Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns continue their growth, the Timberwolves suddenly turn into major contenders to the Warriors in the West after a couple of seasons. Tell me a Russ vs. KD Western Conference Final doesn’t entertain you?
Dunn and LaVine give OKC a pair of nice prospects to watch develop or repackage into another deal. Remember, the Thunder would still probably be battling for a playoff spot with this roster that includes Oladipo, Kanter and Adams — as they would if they added the pieces in any of the following trades.
Let’s say the Suns want to get really aggressive. Here’s how they do that. Packaging up their three major chips from their past two draft classes, along with a stud to replace Westbrook in Bledsoe is actually a legit offer, maybe even an overpayment. The problem would be with what’s left in Phoenix … nothing. But when it comes down to it, it’s impossible to see a team like the Suns or Wolves having the confidence to go in on Westbrook, even if they only had to give up half the assets in these pretend trades.
There’s just no way Russ would stay. Which leaves us with these deals.
New York Knicks
Now the Knicks are really all-in. We can’t make this deal happen right away because there are a couple of freshly traded players involved, but think down the line. Imagine if it was actually Westbrook and not Rose that wound up the PG for NYC next season? Would Russ/Melo/Noah be the second-best team in the East? Maybe. Would the Knicks try this deal and go for it? Definitely. For OKC it’s easy. You get one of the best young studs in return and try and sign him/pair him with Adams and the young core for as long as possible. Rose really doesn’t even matter in this trade, he’d wind up leaving after the season. OKC could even try and move him again in a deadline deal. Wouldn’t that be something.
This move just kind of allows both teams to take different paths in attempting to chase the Warriors. OKC probably takes a step back, but Griffin (an Oklahoma product) allows them to still be a solid playoff team in the West (most likely). The Clippers get better, and know Russ has plenty of interest in re-signing in L.A., but we have one big question to talk about. Does a CP3/Westbrook backcourt work? If Russ can be an elite SG, it’s a win. But who knows if that’s possible. Westbrook needs the ball in his hands the way he currently plays. Do you really want to ask him to change his game? If you have Chris Paul, you have to.
Ok, so this is not what the Lakers opening offer would be, but just shows how much they have the ability to offer. If there were no other serious bidders (or Westbrook just comes out and says the only team he’ll re-up with is the Lakers) then L.A. could maybe have him for Russell, Randle and some spare parts. But let’s say Danny Ainge and the Celtics feel like taking a chance while jacking up the price (see below) … would the Lakers dare include Ingram and build on top of Westbrook through free agency?
In the end Boston has the most chips to win the Westbrook sweepstakes, but the Lakers have the hometown advantage when it comes to confidence in re-signing. In reality, Westbrook’s price tag will be much lower than these trade ideas. Most teams will have to think of him as a rental and simply pray he considers returning. In the case of the Lakers (who we assume Russ would re-sign with), what’s their motivation to even make the trade is they feel they’ll land him anyway? So dealing prospects like Ingram and Russell to acquire Westbrook seems silly. We’ll see which side prevails, but Westbrook is going somewhere one way or another before the 2016-17 campaign is over.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.