The Oklahoma City Thunder dealt superstar forward Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for a massive haul of draft picks. Included in the package was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a promising young point guard. With his acquisition and the team clearly looking to move in a different direction, could Russell Westbrook be on the move next?
First, a trade partner would have to be willing to take on Westbrook’s super-max salary; he’s owed over $124 million over the next three seasons before he has a $47 million player option for his age-34 season. Even if a team is willing to pay him that asinine sum, they’d have to find a way to fit him on the books. Which teams could be the best fit for the former MVP?
The Orlando Magic have been in desperate need of both a talented point guard and a superstar for years. Why not knock out both of those with one trade? Last season, big man Nikola Vucevic was the first Magic player to average at least 20 points per game since Dwight Howard in 2011-12. Westbrook did that in each of the last seven seasons. For reference, the last time a Magic guard averaged at least 20 points per game? Steve Francis in 2004-05.
Along with Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, Orlando has some decent young players that could pan out, especially with Westbrook taking some of that pressure off. The Magic could also make the salary work pretty easily by including Timofey Mozgov and Evan Fournier, as well as a massive amount of picks or prospects. Orlando might not be willing to make this big of a splash, but they have to do something to get out of the NBA’s middle-ground.
Speaking of teams that really need better guard play, the Chicago Bulls could land Westbrook as well. However, it’s not entirely likely as the Bulls just drafted point guard Coby White with the seventh-overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Still, he’s far from a guarantee and it wouldn’t hurt to let him slowly develop beneath one of the game’s most lethal guards. Not to mention, Westbrook would be the team’s biggest star since fellow MVP-winner Derrick Rose.
Westbrook’s playing style could fit in nicely with Lauri Markannen and Wendell Carter (assuming they wouldn’t be part of the deal), two bigs that don’t need the ball in their hands to be effective. The issue here is that the Bulls obviously aren’t in contention yet and they may not be willing to sacrifice young players and several years of first-round picks to take on his contract.
This one might be the most fun for several reasons. First off, there were once rumors that star big man Blake Griffin was interested in joining his hometown Thunder. Now with the Detroit Pistons, he and Westbrook could still make one of the most electrifying duos in the league. Russ could also play alongside Rose, another former NBA MVP that leaves it all out on the court every night.
However, the best part about this trade would be the likely inclusion of Reggie Jackson. The former Thunder point guard would be probably be heading back to Oklahoma City so the Pistons could afford Westbrook, his well-known enemy. The two have had public beef since Jackson went to Detroit, so that relationship coming full-circle would certainly be fun to watch unfold.