Perhaps the most shocking thing about the late-night trade of Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers was not that Kawhi Leonard would be signing with the latter, but that the Oklahoma City Thunder decided their best course of action would be to kickstart a rebuild in the process. The haul of picks that came with a Paul George trade are many, and Monday’s move to trade Jerami Grant to Denver added to that pile.
But more than just losing George, that trade signals that the end may be near for Russell Westbrook’s time in OKC. Rumors trickled out after the George trade that some tension between he and George was a precursor to the move, and Leonard’s lobbying to get George to leave the team he re-signed with for four years a summer ago was apparently made easier because of it.
Over the weekend it was reported that the Thunder and Westbrook’s camp were discussing ‘next steps’ for the franchise and player who has averaged a triple-double the last two seasons, and Monday brought word that the team has reportedly started fielding offers for the guard.
Trading Westbrook at this point would be unsurprising given the haul of draft pick the Thunder have and the loss of George, who was acquired by OKC as part of the arms race that developed in the NBA’s Western Conference over the last few years. Convincing George to re-sign with the Thunder was no small feat for a small market team, but after a year it seems clear to both George and the Thunder that it wasn’t enough to keep up.
At this point, losing Westbrook — a brilliant player who struggled shooting in 2018 and is notoriously inefficient — would be equal parts giving him a chance to chase a title elsewhere and allowing the Thunder to hit the full reset button and build a new roster out entirely. But, as Charania notes, it got late in the free period early, and many teams have already worked out what they expected their rosters and caps to look like.
There are reports that teams are interested, though, and as we’ve already learned this summer anything is possible in the NBA. Seeing Westbrook play in another uniform this fall, however, now seems more likely than not.