Report: Thunder almost definitely won’t trade Russell Westbrook this season
Russell Westbrook negotiated himself a raise of more than $8 million and chalked it up to loyalty.
Is the feeling mutual?
The Thunder can trade Westbrook six months after he signed his contract extension, which make him eligible to be dealt Feb. 4. The trade deadline will be a few weeks later.
Would Oklahoma City trade its franchise player during that narrow window?
Building around Westbrook is certainly the Thunders City’s first choice. According to this report, they’ll give that route at least a full season to work.
But is there truly no worst-case scenario for the season’s first few months that would convince Oklahoma City to abort the plan early?
The Thunder became accustomed to winning big with Kevin Durant. It’s one thing to know they’ll take a step back after his departure to the Warriors. It’s another to live it every day.
Oklahoma City doesn’t want to lose Westbrook in 2018, when he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. One reported plan is trying to sign Blake Griffin next summer, and that would certainly require Westbrook’s continued presence.
It’d also likely require the Thunder winning at a reasonable clip next season. Griffin probably isn’t leaving the Clippers for a crummy team, even if it’s to his native Oklahoma.
Winning will also be a key ingredient in persuading Westbrook to stay. Absent that, the other way to get value from him is trading him, and he’ll be more valuable if traded in February. Teams will covet the extra half season and playoffs with him on the roster.
Of course, that also applies to the Thunder. If Westbrook can help them reach the postseason and maybe even make some noise in it, they’ll gladly ride him.
But if the playoffs become a far-fetched dream by the trade deadline… I’m curious just how devoted Oklahoma City remains to Westbrook in that scenario.