Russell Westbrook trade rumors: These five teams could target Thunder’s star guard
Russell Westbrook lost his Thunder buddy over the weekend, and now he may be on his way out of Oklahoma City.
Following the stunning trade that gave Paul George his wish to join the Clippers – and guaranteed Kawhi Leonard would sign with Los Angeles in free agency – the Thunder sent Jerami Grant to the Nuggets on Monday, an important move with OKC focused on avoiding the dreaded repeater tax. These transactions could be the setup to a Westbrook deal in the near future.
Westbrook has reportedly covered the possibility of a trade with Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
The triple-double machine simply doesn’t match up with the Thunder’s timeline, especially not with new point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the roster. As hard as it may be to trade a franchise icon, launching a rebuild is the right decision.
But which teams could pursue Westbrook? Finding the right fit isn’t easy.
Russell Westbrook to the Heat?
Taking your talents to South Beach isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Heat have “expressed interest” in acquiring Westbrook, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and Westbrook seems open to the idea of flying down to Florida.
Adding Westbrook would give the Heat another star next to Jimmy Butler, who was part of a four-way sign-and-trade when free agency began. It’s not a perfect duo because both players want to control the offense, but at least Butler wouldn’t have a problem with Westbrook’s work ethic.
The problem for any team chasing Westbrook? His gigantic contract.
Fortunately for the Heat, they have young assets (Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro) and big money on the books (Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk) that will help in trade discussions. Unfortunately, they don’t possess a ton of draft capital. The Thunder already own two future Heat picks via the George trade. Plus, Miami is hard capped, meaning this could be a three-teamer.
Still, this could be the right trade for all parties involved. Westbrook goes to a preferred destination. The Thunder unload his contract for a prospect, expiring contract and/or a pick. The Heat roll out the Butler-Westbrook combo and become much more threatening in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Russell Westbrook to the Knicks?
Oh, this is so Knicks.
After striking out with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, New York is stuck without a marquee player to promote to its fans. (Please don’t punch me, Bobby Portis.) Westbrook would fill that void immediately and pile up numbers at Madison Square Garden. Westbrook posting 30-13-11 on a nightly basis sounds fun, and fun has been in short supply under Knicks owner James Dolan.
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However, there are complicating factors. The Knicks only have $4 million in cap space and can’t trade their pile of new contracts until Dec. 15, per CBA rules. Westbrook could easily be on a new team by then.
This kind of move would also go completely against New York’s strategy of maintaining flexibility until it can eventually become a true contender. If Westbrook is the No. 2 guy next to someone else, fine, but Durant and George have both left Westbrook for greener pastures. Just let the youngsters improve and gain experience through the losses.
A Westbrook deal is tempting and extremely Knicks-y for a franchise in desperate need of star power. That doesn’t mean the Knicks should do it.
Russell Westbrook to the Pistons?
Detroit has Blake Griffin on a hefty contract for the next three seasons (assuming he takes his $38.9 million option for 2021-22). Why stack Westbrook on top of that?
Well, to steal a Westbrook line, why not? Could a Pistons team with Griffin and Westbrook make a postseason push through an open East? What’s so wrong with actually competing?
Reggie Jackson would presumably be part of this trade for salary purposes ($18 million expiring contract) and because pairing him with Westbrook is… yikes. Andre Drummond is another candidate, and so is Tony Snell. Luke Kennard and draft compensation could be attached as sweeteners.
The Pistons are one of the “very real possibilities” for Westbrook, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Brett Dawson, and they owe it to themselves to engage with the Thunder. In a league full of big names, Westbrook could help Detroit stand out.
That’s far from a championship lock, but it’s worth something for what has been a supremely blah franchise in recent years.
Russell Westbrook to the Rockets?
Landing Westbrook is a “long shot” for Houston, one Rockets source told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, and it’s not hard to see why. Matching salaries is a real challenge right off the bat.
Clint Capela and Eric Gordon are the likely pieces here, as they would have been on their way out the door had the Rockets figured out a sign-and-trade for Butler. Even then, Houston would need an additional contract and a draft pick, otherwise it’s barely a blip on Presti’s radar.
Once you account for all of the financial issues, there’s the on-court fit. Westbrook, James Harden and Chris Paul all want to run the offense. None of those guards seems particularly enthralled with working off the ball. Westbrook might not slide in so nicely.
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And that’s without mentioning the other end. The Rockets’ defense would essentially be an escalator toward the rim with no Capela to alter and block shots.
Paul apparently supports this hypothetical trio, though. Instagram likes are 100 percent accurate. Put this trade on the board!
Russell Westbrook to the Timberwolves?
The Timberwolves wanted D’Angelo Russell, but the Warriors snatched him from their grasp and left Minnesota hanging without a wingman for Karl-Anthony Towns. How about Westbrook as the backup plan?
This deal has to begin with Andrew Wiggins, who is under contract through 2022-23. The Wolves could place Wiggins on the table immediately, then gauge whether Presti finds the 24-year-old forward intriguing enough to continue the conversation.
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If Presti is interested, there’s a path to a workable trade. If not, this is probably a non-starter.
The Wolves fall into the same “long shot” group as the Rockets, but talking is free. We’ve already learned to expect the unexpected this offseason.
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