After the Thunder sent Paul George to the Clippers in a stunning trade that coincided with Kawhi Leonard signing in Los Angeles, the future trajectory of the franchise became apparent.
Oklahoma City received four unprotected first round picks, a protected first rounder, along with Danilo Gallinari and rising sophomore point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Given the haul they received being so future-facing, one couldn’t help but wonder what the future of Russell Westbrook would be with the franchise.
The star guard and the team’s leadership will reportedly meet soon to determine what the next move is for him, now that they have a young promising point guard and seem headed for a rebuild. Many expect Westbrook trade talks to pick up in coming weeks, but given he is owed over $170 million over the next four years (including a $47 million player option in 2022-23), finding a team that will want to take that contract on and can match salary via a trade is going to be a trick.
On Sunday, Sam Amick and Brett Dawson of The Athletic shed some light on the teams that could potentially get in the mix for Westbrook, highlighting three teams that are expected to have at least some interest
While the mountains of money owed to Westbrook are known to have scared quite a few general managers away, sources say that Detroit and Miami are very real possibilities as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old eight-time All-Star. …
Rival executives have also pinpointed the Houston Rockets as a likely suitor, which would come as no surprise considering the way general manager Daryl Morey has prioritized the pursuit of stars during his entire career (not to mention the possible reunion between Westbrook and his old Thunder teammate James Harden). The notion of Westbrook sharing the floor with two other ball-dominant guards is unorthodox, to say the least, but Morey has long held the belief that landing as many elite players as possible is the path to championship glory.
The most interesting part of the Rockets section is that the plan would apparently be to add Russ to their backcourt combo of James Harden and Chris Paul, not to swap point guards. Tim MacMahon of ESPN confirmed the Rockets’ interest in Westbrook, but also highlighted that it is extremely unlikely given the gymnastics it would take to absorb his deal and the likelihood of it needing to be a three-team trade.
Beyond the difficulties in making a deal, imagining that trio working smoothly together seems nigh impossible, but Houston is desperate for a third star, no matter how questionable the fit.
As for the other teams mentioned, the Heat have the contracts to match salary, most notably including Goran Dragic’s $19 million expiring and Justise Winslow’s $13 million deal that has three years remaining including a team option. However, beyond Winslow, the Heat have very few assets to provide the Thunder. Detroit likewise can match salary without too much difficulty, and unlike Miami, have all of their first round picks for the future that they could toss in to add to OKC’s massive stockpile from the George deal.