His partner-in-crime announced his departure to form a four-headed Goliath in the Bay Area, so what does Russell Westbrook do come this time next year? The answer, though vague, is very telling, and TNT’s David Aldridge reported that there’s “no chance” that the dynamo point guard signs an extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The pressure is now on Sam Presti to move Westbrook at some point this winter before losing him for nothing. And not getting anything for a top-5 player in this league would sting OKC’s fanbase almost as much as Durant leaving. Whether it’s in free agency or via trade, the options for Westbrook will most likely remain the same, and the city of Los Angeles will most likely be first on the list.
Westbrook is California born and bred. He was born in Long Beach, went to high school in Lawndale, and spent two years at UCLA before being brought to the Midwest. The Clippers and Lakers would, essentially, start a civil war in trying to acquire Westbrook. The Lakers do have assets in the form of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle, but the front office would be foolish to break up a nucleus that young and not be immediate contenders. Plus, they just paid Clarkson relatively big bucks, and wouldn’t need to sacrifice any of them because they’re projected to have roughly $30 million in cap space for next year, per Spotrac.
The Clippers could be a target as well, but it would more than likely be a trade as pointed out by Dan Wolken of USA TODAY:
Insane trade idea with everyone in their last contract year: Westbrook, Millsap to Clippers, Griffin to OKC, CP3 to Atlanta. Who says no?
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) July 4, 2016
This would be quite the deal, and I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would say no. Another interesting proposal, brought on by Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, involves the Boston Celtics, who lost out on the Durant sweepstakes.
Danny Ainge is in the perfect position to land Westbrook because they have legitimate assets and cap space. In a utopian world, Ainge would want to wait until next summer because Boston would have the cap (roughly $30 million, per Spotrac) to throw a max contract at Westbrook. He would fit all too perfectly in their offense and would be able to slide into his natural shooting guard position since Isaiah Thomas is the established point guard; with Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, and Avery Bradley as the sixth man, the Celtics would be a dominant force in the East.
However, if Ainge is in the position to trade for Westbrook, would he? This is a question that probably shouldn’t be answered until we see how the Celtics come together, but Boston has the pieces to orchestrate that deal. If OKC is going to trade Westbrook, I doubt they’d want to delay rebuilding, and Danny Ainge has the perfect piece for Presti: an almost guaranteed lottery pick.
Back when Billy King executed one of the worst deals ever (in hindsight) for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics acquired the rights to swap first round picks in 2017 with the Brooklyn Nets. Although Brooklyn is in a position to be a little bit better, it won’t be much. And the 2017 draft class is expected to be loaded, including Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball, Ivan Rabb, and much more. On top of the pick, McIntrye added, is the possibility of adding in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart — but does Ainge do it?
If he were to, obviously Boston would improve, but even if he didn’t the Celtics would still have a phenomenal season and finish as a top-4 seed in the playoffs.
Oh, how fun the NBA is going to be next year.
Financials courtesy of Spotrac
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