On the surface, the words “trading Russell Westbrook” sounds like the most incendiary hot take of all-time. In reality, it’s not. Westbrook is 29. Since losing Kevin Durant, Westbrook has been alongside Victor Oladipo, and it failed. Then Westbrook was alongside Paul George, and that too, failed.
If I said Westbrook wouldn’t win another playoff series as a starter … you’d agree, right? Yes, he’s a massive draw for a mid-market team, and a much-loved star on social media. But trading Russell Westbrook now makes more sense than ever. He technically can’t be traded until September 28, 2018 – one year after signing his colossal extension (5-years, $205 million).
But at 29, he’s never developed a reliable 3-point shot, and how many more years will he be able to win with his athleticism? We’ve seen Blake Griffin’s athleticism wane; he’s five months younger than Westbrook (and also had more injuries). Griffin also never developed a reliable jump shot.
OKC is likely to try another build around Westbrook, but options are limited. Paul George is leaving. They can ‘t afford to keep Jerami Grant. Carmelo Anthony is owed $27.8 million next year. Yes, GM Sam Presti did a nice job turning Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis into Paul George last summer, but it ultimately failed because of Westbrook’s inability to elevate others. In what could be the most amazing stat of his season, Westbrook set “24 ball screens combined in 86 games” according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. OKC as a team threw 254 passes per game this season, second fewest in the NBA.
Fans in OKC love Westbrook and would be devastated if he left. Sam Presti will become a living 30-for-30 for trading James Harden, losing Kevin Durant, and then trading Russell Westbrook.
But this makes sense:
LA Clippers get
Russell Westbrook ($35 million next year)
OKC Thunder get
Danilo Gallinari ($21.5 million next year)
Tobais Harris ($14.8 million next year)
LA Clippers draft picks 12 & 13 in 2018
The Clippers are rebuilding at a time when the Lakers are about to be an elite team, the Rams and Chargers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, UCLA added Chip Kelly, the Dodgers are coming off a World Series appearance, and LA has two pro soccer teams that are very good. The Clippers must add star power this offseason.
In a best-case, this is what OKC could look like after the trade:
Steven Adams, C
Terrance Ferguson, SG
With a primary bench of Andre Roberson, Gilgeous-Alexander, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler and Patrick Patterson. Assuming Gallo is healthy, you win probably 30-35 games, and pick in the lottery again.
The Clippers would hit a grand slam, adding an LA native to sell tickets, and he’d be surrounded by a rim-protector in DeAndre Jordan (for one more year; I can’t see him opting out given the market for non-shooting centers). Montrezl Harrell isn’t someone they want to lose, so he starts at PF and the great shooter Lou Williams is a guard. You could start Westbrook alongside Patrick Beverley in what would be a pesky backcourt. That’s a small starting unit, but they push tempo.
Austin Rivers leads the bench, with Sindarius Thornwell, Wesley Johnson and Sam Dekker helping out. Assuming Westbrook is willing to listen to a coach … that’s a 45-50 win team.
Who says no?