The Oklahoma City Thunder will never quite attain equal value for All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook in any trade, but with a surplus of picks and young cheap players, the Boston Celtics could be general manager Sam Presti’s ideal trade partner.
A little over a week after saying goodbye to Kevin Durant, the Thunder are reportedly planning to trade Russell Westbrook and Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck said Wednesday that the Celtics are the frontrunners to land the triple-double machine and former scoring champion.
Originally, Presti hoped to retain Durant this summer and Westbrook in 2017, keeping the dynamic tandem intact and staying atop the Western Conference for another half decade.
However, with Durant moving on, Oklahoma City was forced to fully gauge whether Westbrook had any intention of re-upping when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in a year. Evidently, the Thunder aren’t too confident Westbrook will re-sign which has led to massive speculation as to whether or not the front office will look to trade him before next season begins and get something back unlike it did with Durant.
“What I’m hearing in Las Vegas from some GMs, not only are they hearing that Westbrook will get traded, it’s that it will be sooner rather than later — before the season starts — and the most likely destination is the Boston Celtics,” Beck said in a video posted Wednesday.
Beck delved into the bountiful assets Boston can offer Oklahoma City for Westbrook, as well as how Presti and his front office have a history of pulling the trigger on trades well before any controversy or speculation worsens. The best examples being the draft night deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando last month, and shocking move that dealt James Harden to Houston in 2012.
“Anyone who has been following the NBA the last couple of years, Boston has been loading up on assets, including those great picks from the Brooklyn Nets. They’ve got a bunch of young players and they can create a package that can get Westbrook there without giving up key pieces,” Beck said. “They could still have Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, hold onto Jae Crowder, presumably, and add Westbrook to that. That’s the challenge for any team trying to trade for Westbrook. Not only do you have to be concerned about his free agency next summer, but you’ve got to be able to trade for him while still having enough players for him to play with when he arrives.”
A five-time All-Star and just last season named to his first All-NBA first team, the 27-year-old Westbrook is a special talent unlike anything the league has season before and he along with Durant made the Thunder a perennial title contender for the better part of the last decade.
Replacing Westbrook is next to impossible, but Presti can negotiate a mega-trade that would assure Oklahoma City has a shot at the “next” Westbrook by demanding several of Boston’s valuable draft picks on top of players on relatively cheap contracts.
According to reports throughout the second half of the season and prior to the draft, the Celtics were open to dealing any number of picks and players in order to land a superstar and it seemed point guard Isaiah Thomas and small forward Jae Crowder were the only untouchable assets.
That leaves young guards Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, as well as center Kelly Olynyk, power forward Jonas Jerebko, and perhaps even recent No. 3 overall selection and high-upside forward Jaylen Brown as potential trade fodder. Other than Brown, none of the other players will make more than $9 million over the next few seasons and their deals will come off the books no later than 2018, which would allow Oklahoma City plenty of salary cap room as it rebuilds.
But the best assets lie in the Celtics draft room. Boston owns the right to swap first-round picks with Brooklyn next year (with the Nets also rebuilding its likely to be a high lottery pick), as well as its own first-round pick in 2018 and Brooklyn’s again.
Going even deeper, Boston also has its own first-round selections in 2019 and 2020 as well as conditional first-round pick swaps with the Memphis Grizzlies. Per league rules, the Celtics aren’t allowed to trade first-round picks in consecutive seasons, but could stagger the picks and package together several of their young cheap players to satisfy Presti and the Thunder.