The Oklahoma City Thunder may have a difficult decision to make on Russell Westbrook.
According to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, there is a “strong belief” among rival general managers that Westbrook is looking to leave Oklahoma City next summer, a developing reality that could force the Thunder to deal their last remaining star before he leaves the franchise for nothing in a year’s time.
In fact, the general managers who spoke to Beck in Las Vegas are convinced Oklahoma City will make the trade.
“Not only do they think that Westbrook will get traded, that it will be sooner rather than later, probably before the season starts,” Beck said.
“And the most likely destination right now? The Boston Celtics. Boston has been loading up on assets. They have a bunch of young players. They have the ability to create a package that could get Westbrook there without giving up key pieces.”
The Thunder already watched Kevin Durant bolt Oklahoma City to create a super team with the Golden State Warriors. Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and if he’s dead set on leaving, a trade might be the Thunder’s only option for getting some compensation in return.
Oklahoma City already traded away Serge Ibaka, who is also scheduled to be a free agent after next year.
Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical isn’t so sure Westbrook is leaving.
“I’ve been told Russell’s been very determined to lead the team they have, and I know that Russell really likes the town. He loves bringing in (Victor) Oladipo … Steven Adams. Those are his guys,” Wojnarowski said, via the Oklahoman. “He thinks they’re a real talented team that if they can add another significant piece it puts them right back in contention. I think he’s embracing this, and he can go out next summer and get a $200 million dollar extension with Oklahoma City.”
The Thunder’s decision revolves entirely around Westbrook’s long-term outlook. If he’s willing to stick around and rebuild post-Durant, Oklahoma City doesn’t need to entertain a trade. But if there’s a strong feeling he’s going to follow Durant and bolt the franchise, general manager Sam Presti will have to look at all his options, with dealing away Westbrook for assets in a bigger rebuild as the most likely scenario.