Russell Westbrook reportedly wants out in Houston. The nine-time All-Star and former MVP is done with the Rockets according to Shams Charania. That means a trade is likely this offseason.
Given the three-years and $132 million left on his deal, it's going to be a chore for Houston to find a trade partner for the 31-year-old. But there are options. Any team without cap space would need to send back at least $33 million in salary to make a deal work. Here's a look at five options.
New York Knicks
Oh yeah, the New York Knicks are here. Leon Rose is in charge of a franchise desperately in need of a spark, well, this would count. The Knicks were 21-45 and were one of the most boring teams in the NBA in 2020. At the very least, Westbrook could put on a show at MSG on a near-nightly basis.
The Knicks have two first-round picks this year but it's safe to say the No. 8 selection would be off the table. They also own Dallas' selection in 2021. Guys like Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington and Elfrid Payton could be packaged in some combination to make salaries match. No one is untouchable and all their contracts except Randle's expire after the 2020-21 season. That means the Rockets would clear those numbers off their cap sheet soon, gaining future flexibility. That could be attractive enough to pull the trigger.
Westbrook won an MVP playing for Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City, so this would be a reunion that could work for both parties. The Bulls also badly need a leader and centerpiece to build around. Chicago finished 22-43 in 2020 and while the roster has some intriguing young players, the franchise doesn't have a true star at its heart.
Otto Porter Jr. is wildly-overpaid and due $28.5 million on an expiring contract this season. The Bulls also have Thaddeus Young ($13.5 million this season with an out in 2021-22) and their future first-round picks to make a deal with. They certainly won't include the fourth pick in next week's draft to make it happen, but a combination of current contracts and a future pick should be enough to get a deal.
The Pistons hired new general manager Troy Weaver after he spent years in Oklahoma City's front office. He knows Westbrook and watched the Thunder win a lot of games with Russ running things. The Pistons missed the playoffs in 2020 despite having an expensive centerpiece in Blake Griffin. It might be time to change things up.
The Pistons have $30 million in cap space this offseason and Tony Snell's $12.2 million contract will expire after this season. That's enough to get a deal done if they include a future pick. They could also decide on a big-ticket swap and try to move Griffin ($36.8 million) to Houston in an All-Star exchange. There are options and flexibility to get a deal done if the Pistons want Westbrook.
The issue here would be whether the Hawks think Westbrook could help Trae Young or hinder him, though the combination of the two players would immediately form a formidable backcourt tandem. The Hawks were a sexy playoff pick before the 2019-20 season started, then finished 20-47 and wound up with the sixth pick in the 2020 draft. Atlanta needs something new to stir its mix of young players up.
The Hawks have $43 million in cap space to make something happen here, so they could absorb all of Westbrook's salary in exchange for a future draft pick and maybe a role player. The sixth pick isn't going anywhere, but what about sending a future first-rounder and Clint Capela back to Houston?
What about Westbrook and Ja Morant teaming up in the backcourt? That could be really fun and give Memphis a boost to its rebuild.
The Grizzlies have enough expensive role players to make a deal happen. Gorgui Dieng ($17.3 million), Kyle Anderson ($9.5 million) and (Tyus Jones $8.8 million) combine to make $35.6 million. Dieng's contract expires in 2021, with Anderson and Jones will both hit free agency in 2022. The Grizzlies also have Utah's first-rounder in 2021 and Golden State's in 2024, plus all of their own future picks. The Rockets could get multiple draft assets after making the money work.