Russell Westbrook To Heat, Knicks, Wolves or Bulls?
Russell Westbrook’s campaign with the Oklahoma City Thunder is coming to an end. After a very exciting and, for the most part, mutually productive tenure between player and franchise, he and OKC general manager Sam Presti have agreed that it is time for all involved to go their separate ways.
Westbrook, 30, will enter the 2019-20 season looking to remind one and all that he is worthy of the four years and $170 million remaining on his contract.
Although he continues to be one of the most thrilling acts and compelling personalities in the NBA, Westbrook has developed a reputation in some circles as a player who does not make those around him better. That reputation, coupled with his game being so heavily dependent on athleticism that is likely to continue to diminish over the next few seasons, led many to speculate that OKC will have trouble moving his contract.
Needless to say, after rumors emerged that the Thunder would be open to moving Westbrook, suitors began to line up. Despite all the hoopla that may have led some to assume the contrary, Westbrook is still a phenomenal player.
In 2018-19, Westbrook averaged yet another triple double: 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists. His shooting woes continued, sure, with a 3-point percentage of 29 percent, but that is down only about a percent from his career total of 30.8 percent. He was never a great shooter, and yet that never stopped him from being a difference maker.
Presently, there are four teams that could make a serious run at Westbrook: the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Miami Heat. Each squad has something different to offer, and to gain, from acquiring the Thunder’s lone remaining superstar.
For Chicago, this could be an opportunity to finally add a capable point guard for the first time since Derrick Rose’s disappointing tenure came to an end. The Bulls boast a fascinating young core with a lot of potential, but they have not been a major free agent destination in recent years. If they want a star, they will have to trade for one – and this appears to be the perfect opportunity. Chicago could offer up Otto Porter, Coby White, picks and a bit of cash.
The Timberwolves, similarly, are a squad with a set of promising young pieces who will likely find themselves unable to lure in a superstar any time soon. The closest they have come in recent years to doing so was almost bringing in D’Angelo Russell this summer – banking on his history with Karl Anthony Towns being something that would work in their favor. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to take an awful Andrew Wiggins contract off their hands, and thus, they could not bring in Russell.
Minnesota could easily offer a package consisting of Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and some picks for Westbrook.
After a bunch of hype about how the Knicks were threats to get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, New York’s main basketball attraction watched both sign with the Brooklyn Nets. They settled by signing a bunch of decent role players to short-term contracts, but the fan base is understandably disappointed by how the summer has transpired thus far. Bringing in Westbrook could change that.
If New York waits until December, when some of their newly signed players will be eligible for trade, they can offer Julius Randle, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntikikina and Allonzo Trier in a swap for Westbrook.
Finally, the Heat, at the moment, appear to be in the best position to trade for Westbrook. After bringing in Jimmy Butler this summer, Miami seems poised to contend for a top-4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and in order to really do so, they will need to get Butler a little help. Theoretically the Heat would likely have to offer up Goran Dragic, Justice Winslow and a willingness to take on a bad contract in order to make a deal like this work – but in all likelihood they will need to get at least one other team involved.