After a turbulent offseason, it’s been difficult to pin down the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook’s plans. The Thunder and general manager Sam Presti are reportedly tinkering with the idea of trading Westbrook sooner rather than later, but only if they believe the All-Star will bolt next summer. The team is also still holding out hope Westbrook will agree to a contract extension.
In turn, Westbrook has rebuffed any overtures of an extension, but The Oklahoman reports the 27-year-old floor general has “given The Thunder no indication that he currently wants out.”
Clearly, neither side is on the same page but it appears the situation boils down to what Westbrook truly wants to do now that former teammate Kevin Durant has left for the Golden State Warriors.
Westbrook has been linked to the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York Knicks, either by way of free agency or a blockbuster trade. All are much bigger markets than Oklahoma City, but Westbrook’s choice likely comes down to who is set up to contend for a championship, something only Boston might be ready to do in the next two to three years.
Westbrook, who was named to the All-NBA first team after averaging 24.6 points and 10.4 assists with 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game last season, is set to play out the last year of his current contract at more than $17 million and come next summer he’ll be one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents on a market that’s expected to be in more player-friendly due to another raise in the salary cap. After jumping to $94 million this summer, the cap is expected to exceed more than $100 million and Westbrook will be eligible for a maximum-level contract worth as much as 30 percent of a team’s cap.
The Thunder would like to sign Westbrook to an extension now, but he wouldn’t be eligible for the same raises if he forgoes free agency and a source told a Celtics blog that it doesn’t figure into Westbrook’s plans. He could allow the contract to expire and then re-up with the Thunder for two years and $73.5 million.
"OKC is still trying to get Russell Westbrook to sign a contract extension," the source said, "which he won't do because extensions at this time aren't in a player's best interest anymore. He won't do it."
The source also stressed that while a trade is possible, the team receiving Westbrook would need assurances that he intends to sign with them next summer otherwise a trade would be out of the question since a number of valuable assets will have been squandered if he backs out after one season.
"Russ is in control of the situation. Not any team," the source said. "He controls his destiny. But if a team is going to get him, they need a long-term commitment."
But there is another factor at play: revenge. According to The Oklahoman, a source described Westbrook as “ticked off” about Durant leaving for the Warriors and that Westbrook is “ready” for next season already.