The Thunder Could Trade Russell Westbrook If He Doesn’t Sign an Extension

Bradley Whitaker
(Photo: Getty)

With Kevin Durant gone and Russell Westbrook under contract for just one more season, suddenly the Oklahoma City Thunder are stuck in a dilemma. While it’s possible Westbrook is happy staying in OKC as the “go-to guy” with KD out of the lineup, if that’s not the case, the Thunder risk losing him next offseason just like Durant.

OKC now has some extra cap space to work with, meaning they can use that money to renegotiate a contract with Westbrook, giving him more money (an additional $8 million in 2016-17) and adding a few years to his deal.

But the chances of that happening are slim because the salary cap is set to go up even more next year.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Thunder might try to trade Westbrook if he won’t take a new contract.

If Westbrook chooses not to extend his contract this summer, multiple league executives told ESPN they believe the Thunder will consider fielding trade offers for Westbrook.

Makes sense right? Why risk losing Westbrook and getting nothing in return?

Realistically, there are only two teams with the assets to trade for Russ, at least without moving a lot of pieces around beforehand.

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of them. D’Angelo Russell shows plenty of promise and he’s had some issues in LA. D’Angelo would likely be packaged together with another young talent and maybe some draft picks before OKC would allow for a trade with Westbrook.

The more realistic choice is the Boston Celtics. They hold Brooklyn’s first round selection for two more seasons—picks that could potentially fall at No. 1 because the Nets are a terrible basketball team. And they have more than enough guards that could be included to compensate (Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley). If the C’s do snag Westbrook, expect one or two of those players to be part of the deal.

Of course, any team could trade young talent, draft picks or simply swap parts to trade for Westbrook. Orlando and Phoenix are two other organizations that could trade for Russ, but the Lakers make sense because that’s where Westbrook is from and the market is perfect for him (many expect him to strongly consider LA as a free agent next summer). The Celtics on the other hand, they actually have the pieces to keep OKC’s roster a force in the West, but they can also provide a foundation for the future.

Regardless, even if Westbrook does get traded and negotiates a 1+1 deal with his new team to earn max money (like KD or LeBron), he could still pack up and leave after one season. That’s one expensive rental, especially if it doesn’t bring results.

Any team that trades for Westbrook would be taking a huge risk.

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