The Oklahoma City Thunder are not going to trade Russell Westbrook. There are, however, a few NBA teams that think they should.
Consider what Zach Lowe said during a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (via Bleacher Report’s Kyle Newport):
“There’s an increasing number of people around the league who think the Thunder should look at trading [Russell] Westbrook. To be clear, not a report. Not Thunder sources think they should do this. Just in spitballing ideas with teams around the league, there’s a number of people who have heard, just like, ‘It’s time for something to change here.'”
A few things to consider here. First and foremost, as Lowe emphasizes, this isn’t coming from the Thunder. That means you have to consider the source. It’s very easy for executives from rival teams to make decisions on the behalf of their competitors, especially if they have their own agenda of beating said team or trying to acquire said player.
Equally important, though, this isn’t a ridiculous notion. If Paul George leaves, the Thunder are once again tasked with retooling around Russell Westbrook. That would be difficult no matter what, but it’s particularly tough knowing he’s entering the first season of a five-year, $205.1 million extension. He and Steven Adams will essentially eat up $60 million in cap space moving forward, so the Thunder won’t have meaningful cap space until 2019 at the earliest—and that’s if George leaves this summer. They could see value in trying to get out from under Westbrook’s deal and starting anew with a full-blown youth movement.
The issue, of course, is the money. Teams won’t line up to mortgage the future for a point guard approaching the end of his athletic peak who’s on the books for that much money. The Thunder, not unlike the Los Angeles Clippers with Blake Griffin, would likely have to settle for a less-than-ideal return. And they’re not in a position to do so. Whereas Los Angeles can tout itself as a free-agent destination and prioritize cap space, the Thunder cannot. So not only is dangling Westbrook not worth the trouble or potential return involved, it’s not worth the cachet they’d lose as a result—not yet, anyway.