The Oklahoma City Thunder may be ready to move Russell Westbrook, and these five teams could get a deal done.
In concert with Kawhi Leonard deciding to sign with them, the Los Angeles Clippers have also acquired Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder. That necessarily led to immediate questions about Russell Westbrook’s future with the Thunder. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Westbrook and his agent are “engaged” in discussions with Thunder general manager Sam Presti regarding next steps, including the possibility of a trade.
As an individual talent Westbrook is unrivaled, both now and in league history. He has averaged a triple-double in each of the last three seasons. But George’s trade demand, albeit fueled by Leonard’s full-court press recruitment, points to how hard Westbrook is to play with. When Kevin Durant had the chance, he jumped ship to get a ring.
Westbrook is due to make $38.1 million next season, then $41 million in 2020-21 and $43.8 million in 2021-22. He has a $46.6 million player option for 2022-23, which it’s safe to say he’ll exercise. He will also turn 34 early in that 2022-23 campaign, and his contract includes a 15 percent trade kicker (which he could theoretically waive to make a trade easier).
So any team with interest in trading for Westbrook will have to have off-loadable salaries to match his, along with the surface willingness to take on the money he’s owed going forward. Getting a third team involved would stand as a pathway to getting it done, and three-team scenarios open up some extra possibilities.
If trade offers are out there, it seems the Thunder will give Westbrook some say in where he goes. But Presti is also one of the most savvy executives in the league, and he won’t be pressured into a bad deal.
With all of the aforementioned in mind, these five teams could have interest in Westbrook and make a realistic offer.
Note: All potential trade scenarios involving players have been certified via ESPN’s Trade Machine.
5. Orlando Magic
With any preference on destination, Westbrook may simply not want Orlando. But in Steve Clifford’s first season as coach, the Magic ended a long playoff drought that encompassed never being bad enough to get a certified future star and never good enough to be a real contender. Beyond that, the two sides seem to match up well for a deal.
Orlando has a question at point guard, with D.J. Augustin hardly a long-term answer and the team openly acknowledging it has no idea when Markelle Fultz will be able to play. Add in young players like Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac to garner attention from the Thunder as they consider a rebuild, and an overall glut of wings and big men on the roster, and Orlando can make a formidable offer.
Here’s a deal the Magic and Thunder could do.
PG Russell Westbrook
PF Aaron Gordon, F Jonathan Isaac, PG D.J. Augustin, Future 1st Round Pick
With center Nikola Vucevic being re-signed, Bamba’s path to minutes in Orlando is now unclear and he could be substituted for Isaac to make a trade work. Parting with Gordon and either of the two would not be easy, but that offer would get Oklahoma City’s attention and Augustin’s expiring contract is also an asset.