De’Aaron Fox’s hero growing up was, and still is, his mother Lorraine. His favorite player growing up was Russell Westbrook, the nine-time All-Star and former MVP, who currently is looking for an escape route from the Houston Rockets.
If he is on the trade block, where does Westbrook and his robust contract fit in the NBA’s landscape?
At least one talking head sees a potential fit for Westbrook on the Kings.
Nick Wright of FS1's "First Things Firs"t pitched the idea of Buddy Hield and the No. 12 overall pick for the former MVP. It would take an extra piece like Jabari Parker’s $6.5 million deal or possibly Cory Joseph and his $12.5 million to make the numbers work, but the Kings certainly have the contracts to match up.
The real question is, should the Kings even consider bringing in a player like Westbrook?
The case for Westbrook
Nothing sells tickets like a superstar. Although the Kings won’t be able to pack Golden 1 Center with fans this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, there still is the issue that the franchise has missed the playoffs for the last 14 seasons and adding a player like Westbrook could potentially help snap that streak.
Before joining the Rockets last season, Westbrook posted three consecutive seasons in which he averaged a triple-double. Even sharing the spotlight with James Harden, Westbrook still managed to post 27.2 points, 7.0 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game last season in Houston.
Westbrook is a statistical juggernaut. He’s made the postseason in 10 of the last 11 seasons. He’s taken a team to the Western Conference Finals. He’s led the league in triple-doubles five times, scoring twice and assists twice. While he doesn’t have a ring, he’s a sure-fire Hall of Fame player and at 32 years old, he still has plenty of gas in the tank.
While Westbrook is a player that loves to have the ball in his hands, he’s also played with Harden and/or Kevin Durant over the last 12 seasons. That means he knows how to share a stage, which might be an issue with the Kings placing so much emphasis on Fox as the face of the franchise.
The case against Westbrook
For starters, Westbrook has three years and $132.6 million remaining on his current deal. The final season, in which he’ll turn 34, he has a player option for $47 million (yes, you read that correctly). That’s a lot of cheddar.
He also has missed some time over the last two seasons due to injury and there should be concerns about a player who has played nearly 35 minutes per game throughout his 12-year NBA career, plus postseason minutes.
There is potential for a sharp dropoff in production at some point, but there also is a possibility that Westbrook continues his strong play throughout the final three years of his deal.
While he can score in bunches, Westbrook isn’t a great perimeter shooter. He also turns the ball over at an alarming clip and half-court sets with both he and Fox on the court might be challenging, especially if the Kings can’t add shooters at the other three positions.
Can Fox and Westbrook co-exist on the same court? Would Fox defer to Westbrook and potentially hurt his long-term development? Could the two hold their own on the defensive end?
There are plenty of questions, but a lot of that comes down to coaching and whether or not Luke Walton and his staff can keep all the hungry mouths fed.
Would a dual point guard set with Fox and Westbrook work? Could they mask their deficiencies as 3-point shooters by pushing the tempo and running opponents off the court? Would Westbrook even consider getting off a plane at the Sacramento International Airport?
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but Kings fans have been waiting 14 years for a winner. The franchise has tried just about everything to snap out of their losing ways, except bringing in a star and letting him go to work.
The money is extreme, but the overall gamble is minimal. Hield makes substantially less cash over the course of the next three seasons, but he also has pushed to get out of Sacramento. The No. 12 overall pick is solid, but almost an afterthought when matched with Westbrook’s production. You can offset at least some of the first-year salary by attaching a player like Joseph to the deal.
It’s very possible the Kings don’t even consider a move like this, but why not? Fox can still develop alongside Westbrook. Marvin Bagley would have a chance to improve as well, while not being a focal point. You would still have the potential to bring back Bogdan Bogdanovic in free agency and the Kings would be the talk of the league, at least for a few minutes.
Sacramento would need to add more shooters, clear out some additional salary cap space and make roster adjustments, but you don’t often get an opportunity to add a player like Westbrook.
General manager Monte McNair knows Westbrook from their time together last season in Houston. The Rockets weighed the positives and negatives last summer and made a blockbuster move. They were on pace for another 50-win season, but didn’t work out. Sacramento is a different situation and the results could be dramatically different.
Changing the direction of the Kings’ franchise will take a bold move. Making a run at Westbrook could be the jolt the team needs and the way McNair puts his stamp on the franchise coming out of the gate. It’s risky, but if the Rockets said yes, what do the Kings have to lose?