Russell Westbrook has told Oklahoma City Thunder of his desire to test free agency next summer, per a source close to the organization.
Ever since Kevin Durant’s departure, Thunder has been rumored to trade Westbrook in order to secure younger assets and enter a rebuilding phase.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder seeking clarity
According to ESPN’s Royce Young, Thunder and Westbrook have been in constant communication since Durant’s decision. Young noted that Westbrook doesn’t want to leave OKC hanging and would want to give a sense of assurance about his future decision.
“And with Durant now gone, Westbrook understands the gravity of his own choice – he leaves, and the organization burns to the ground in a summer. So he wants to give them clarity to either move on with or without him,” wrote Young, who also noted that Thunder is still holding out about a contract extension.
In the aftermath of Durant’s exit, Sam Presti, general manager of the Thunder, is expected to whatever necessary to ensure that the franchise isn’t left empty-handed. Remember, Presti traded away James Harden and Serge Ibaka before those players entered a free agency year.
Reeling from Kevin Durant decision…
Young revealed that Durant was seeking a new home in Nicholas Hills, a suburb in Oklahoma City, a week before the former MVP departed to the Hamptons to meet free agency suitors. At the time, most Thunder officials and league insiders were convinced that Durant would re-sign with the team.
It seems like Thunder won’t make the same mistake again. “The Thunder had every reason to believe he (Durant) was going to stay to finish what he started. They had meticulously crafted a roster to support their two stars. Now, they’ve been left empty-handed and are recovering from a steam engine plowing through the franchise. That’s not going to happen again,” added Young, suggesting that Thunder is not afraid to trade Westbrook.
Russell Westbrook is set to make $17.7 million next year. Due to the rising salary cap, Westbrook stands to earn a lot more by waiting until next July. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer that Westbrook waits for his contract to expire before inking a new deal.
Young explained the situation: “Currently, Westbrook is set to make $17.7 million this season, but could move that to close to around $27.5 million on a renegotiated deal this season. In the long term, Westbrook will make more money on a renegotiated extension than if he waits to sign a max level contract next summer, even with the rising salary cap.”