There is growing buzz about a Russell Westbrook trade, but a deal could get complicated

Russell Westbrook may be on the trading block. David Zalubowski/AP

  • Russell Westbrook’s future with the Oklahoma City Thunder is up in the air after their blockbuster Paul George trade.
  • While Westbrook appears to be on the trading block, there is reportedly a “limited” market for him.
  • Westbrook is still a star guard, but concerns about his age, athleticism, and gigantic contract make him a tough player to fit on many rosters.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday re-shaped the NBA as we know it.

The Thunder traded Paul George to the Clippers for seven first-round draft picks (four unprotected, one protected, and two pick swaps), along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari.

The trade allowed the Clippers to sign Kawhi Leonard, altered the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors’ offseasons, and re-shaped the playoff race in both conferences.

Read more:
The Clippers reportedly decided to make the biggest trade for a superstar in NBA history because they feared the Lakers forming a Big 3 with Kawhi Leonard

The aftermath for the Thunder may be the most interesting, however. The Thunder received the biggest return for a superstar ever – just weeks after the Lakers landed Anthony Davis – by trading a star they had re-signed to a four-year deal last year.

The attention now turns to the future of Russell Westbrook.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Thunder were engaged in trade talks with the Clippers and Raptors. According to Wojnarowski, the Thunder were negotiating a deal that would have sent George and Westbrook to the Raptors. The Raptors balked at the price.

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Russell Westbrook. Sue Ogrocki/AP

Wojnarowski also reported that the Thunder and Westbrook’s camp had discussions about the possibility of trading Westbrook before the season begins. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Monday that the Thunder have been “receptive” to trade calls for Westbrook.

On Monday, the Thunder seemed to take another step closer to blowing up their team, trading forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for a 2020 first-round pick. The Thunder have now acquired six first-round picks this offseason.

Dealing Westbrook makes sense. The Thunder have lost in the first round of the playoffs three consecutive years. They have had two star forwards, in Durant and George, leave the team. Westbrook is turning 31 in November, with four years, $US171 million remaining on his deal. The Thunder now have a bounty of assets, though few tangible prospects on the roster besides Gilgeous-Alexander (who would have to share the ball with Westbrook and is 10 years younger).

Finding a deal for Westbrook may be challenging. His contract is among the worst in the NBA, and there are growing fears about his declining athleticism, erratic jumper, and questionable habits on the floor.

However, Westbrook’s talent and star power are undeniable. He is still an All-NBA guard in his prime who affects the game and puts fans in the seats.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on the podcast “The Lowe Post” that he thinks there is a market for Westbrook, but it’s “limited.”

The Miami Heat have been a rumoured destination, and they’re among the best potential fits. The Heat have been hungry for stars and just landed Jimmy Butler this offseason. They have the salaries to make a trade work. They also owe first-round picks in two of the next four years, but there is a belief that the Thunder may have to send out draft picks to find a taker for Westbrook. Picks might not matter in such a deal.

What could matter is the players exchanged. The Heat could use players like Goran Dragic (owed $US19 million in ’19-20), James Johnson ($US15.3 million), Kelly Olynyk ($US12.6 million), or Dion Waiters ($US12 million) in a deal to match salaries for Westbrook. Do the Thunder want any of those players?

Would the Heat part with young players like Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, or Tyler Herro for Westbrook? The Heat may not want to include good, young talent in a trade for Westbrook, while the Thunder may not want to sell so low on its franchise star.

The same problems can be applied to many other teams. First: who needs a point guard? Second: Who is trying to win now? Westbrook likely doesn’t fit the Orlando Magic or the Phoenix Suns’ timelines (though he would help both). The Charlotte Hornets just spent $US57 million on Terry Rozier. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast that he doubts the Minnesota Timberwolves would trade Westbrook for Andrew Wiggins straight up. Lowe also expressed doubts that the Detroit Pistons would be interested in trading for Westbrook.

The Knicks have been a frequently mentioned trading partner. The Knicks are desperate for stars after striking out in free agency, but it’s fair to question if they would even want Westbrook. Knicks owner James Dolan was reportedly wary of offering Kevin Durant the full, four-year, $US164 million max contract while he returns from a torn Achilles. Westbrook is owed more, is just one year younger, and is not as good as Durant. The Knicks decided to use their salary cap space this offseason on a mix of young players and veterans on short deals to preserve cap space for 2021. It’s doubtful that they would want to switch gears to take on Westbrook.

Other teams could pivot directions and decide to take on Westbrook, depending on the price. Westbrook’s contract will become burdensome, and there is a chance – if he doesn’t adapt his game – that the back-end of his prime is fast approaching. However, with the right team around him, a franchise could swallow those costs if it means a chance at winning, plus landing a marketable All-Star.

In today’s NBA, superstars are seemingly always a small step away from hitting the trade market. In a summer where some of the biggest players have changed teams, Westbrook is the next star who could be on the move.