A little over a year after Russell Westbrook left Oklahoma City Thunder to be reunited with James Harden, he seems to be on the road again. On Wednesday night, The Athletic reported that the nine-time All Star had told the Houston Rockets that he wanted to be traded after he became increasingly uncomfortable with “the team’s responsibility and culture.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni announced that he would not return to the Rockets one day after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the semi-finals of the Western Conference in September, before general manager Daryl Morey left the franchise a month later.
After averaging a triple-double in his last three seasons with the Thunder, Westbrook averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7 assists in 57 regular season games with the Rockets in 35.9 minutes on the court and has reportedly expressed a desire to return to his “floor general” role that he held during his 11 seasons in Oklahoma.
The switch to the 2017 MVP could be difficult for the Rockets as Westbrook turns 32 on Thursday and has a contract for another three years for a total of $132 million. Here is a look at potential candidates.
New York Knicks
The NBA’s perennial underachievers were one of the first teams mentioned as possible targets for Westbrook after his desire to leave Houston came up, with The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reporting that the Knicks were interested in the All-Star Guard.
As always, when it comes to New York, there are a number of caveats to consider. The Knicks have been trying desperately for years to get an All-Star caliber player into the free selection, but have always come away empty-handed, most recently when they missed Kevin Durant two years ago. Westbrook would do a lot to make up for the lack of stardust in Madison Square Garden, while his supposed desire to become the leading figure on his next team might well fit in with the Knicks who have one of the youngest players in the league.
According to Spotrac’s figures, the Knicks have the second-largest room for maneuver in the NBA after the Atlanta Hawks, which means they could take Westbrook’s contract, which is worth $132 million over the next three seasons.
With Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and Reggie Bullock all on expiring contracts, the Knicks also have a combination of young players and salary cap fodder that could make the Rockets a deal as Houston could wipe the slate clean and give themselves a much-needed breather on salary caps.
Conversely, New York would take a massive risk by putting all-in on a player whose best years may be behind him. The Knicks have been there before.
Los Angeles Clippers
Like the Knicks, the Clippers were named by Kevin O’Connor as one of the teams whose ears leapt up at the news that Westbrook wants out of Houston. Adding the nine-time All-Star team to a list that already includes Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would give the Clippers a championship-caliber Big Three and relieve Leonard of the burden of goals, but it would be a huge risk to the organization.
The Clippers would have to give up some of their valuable assets to land Westbrook – think of Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, for example – and his passing alongside Leonard and George would raise a huge question mark as the trio – especially Westbrook – could be ball-defining.
In addition, the Clippers can’t upset their two stars, both of whom may back out of their deals at the end of the season.
While the Clippers would love to toy with the idea of trading for Westbrook, the deal seems too big a risk to them. Stranger things have happened in the NBA, though.
The Suns only came within inches of making the playoffs, having finished 8-0 in the Seeding Games after the Coronavirus Pandemic, when the NBA season in the Orlando Bubble resumed after the Coronavirus Pandemic. The inclusion of an all-star player like Westbrook would relieve Devin Booker of the burden associated with the role of primary goal scorer and would in all likelihood raise the Suns’ offensive ceiling.
However, this would come at a price, as Phoenix may have to sacrifice some of its young prospects, such as Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre, to lure Houston into a trade and the balance