Russell Westbrook’s status with the Oklahoma City Thunder has been one of the most discussed topics of the NBA offseason following the free-agent move by Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. According to reports, Westbrook was refusing to sign an extension, prompting Thunder general manager Sam Presti to shop the five-time All-Star.
However, a new report from ESPN contradicts previous sources, claiming Westbrook wants to play the 2016-17 season with the Thunder and could even earn more money by signing a four-year extension instead of hitting the open market next summer.
ESPN cites unnamed sources claiming the superstar point guard “doesn’t want to be traded,” and would prefer to play for Oklahoma City next season. Westbrook “will think heavily about an extension” but has to look at every “angle” beforehand. Those angles may include a trade to team that offers him a better chance to win a title.
Several reports have suggested that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers were interested in trading for the 27-year-old, and that Presti was open to moving him but only if it was certain Westbrook had no plans to re-sign next summer. The Thunder didn't receive compensation for losing Durant, so Presti wants to avoid a similar scenario with Westbrook.
The Thunder could retain Westbrook and offer him a much more lucrative extension than he could find on the open market in 2017, even with the NBA’s salary cap projected to jump even higher than its present $94 million.
With guard Dion Waiters signing with the Miami Heat on Monday, the Thunder can increase Westbrook’s salary from $17.7 million to $26.5 million next season. Essentially, because Oklahoma City now has more than $12 million cap space following Waiters' exit, they are now able to offer Westbrook a full maximum-level extension.
Westbrook can still receive a highly lucrative offer with other teams, but may choose the comfort of sticking with the team that drafted him in 2008. After losing Durant and Waiters, Westbrook can still lead a solid core that includes emerging big men Steven Adams and Enes Kanter and two-way shooting guard Victor Oladipo back to the postseason.