The Oklahoma City Thunder fear losing Russell Westbrook next summer and could consider trading the point guard to secure future assets, according to a league source. In such a scenario, the Los Angeles Lakers have emerged as a favorable destination for the athletic superstar.
After Kevin Durant bolted to Golden State Warriors on Monday, there is a heightened sense of emergency within the Thunder camp who expected Westbrook to leave next offseason.
Unlikely to sign extension…
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Monday that Thunder will try to sign Westbrook to a contract extension this summer. “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,” reported Windhorst.
Westbrook, due to earn $17.8 million in the last year of his contract, could sign a maximum contract starting at nearly $26 million next season. However, with the salary cap skyrocketing to $108 million next season, it would make sense for Westbrook to sign a new contract a year later.
Thunder, who own his Bird Rights, are in a position to sign him to a lucrative five-year deal. “With the salary cap expected to leap again next summer, however, Westbrook would stand to earn more money by waiting and signing a new contract with the Thunder or another team then,” added Windhorst, ruling out the possibility of Westbrook signing a extension this summer.
Russell Westbrook: Made for big market
In recent weeks, several pundits have speculated that Westbrook would prefer to play in a big market team like Los Angeles or New York next season.
The Big Lead has proposed a trade with the Lakers that could secure Thunder a host of young assets. “If Westbrook is going to leave anyways, OKC needs to get something back for him. At first blush, the Lakers have a bunch of young assets like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, and after their marquee signing this offseason was Timofey Mozgov, they would need to make moves if they are going to even be in playoff contention next year. Westbrook could go to LA, where many people already think he’s going to wind up,” writes Ryan Glasspiegel.
Remember, Westbrook was born and raised in Long Beach, California, before playing college basketball for the UCLA Bruins. “Whether it’s the Lakers or somewhere else, the Thunder should pivot into rebuilding mode. This is a harrowing prospect for a franchise that has often been in the title picture since moving from Seattle, but it’s the best way to play their current hand,” added the Big Lead.
Will Thunder trade Russell Westbrook? It’s hard to rule out the possibility since they could be left with a team sans all-star talent next season. By trading Westbrook now they can begin the rebuilding process earlier than expected.