In a stunning turn of events, Russell Westbrook may find himself on his way out of Oklahoma City quickly and on a new team. That is the result of former teammate and friend Kevin Durant’s decision to bolt the Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors.
Durant used his time hosting prospective NBA franchises wisely. And once he compiled all of his information, he took to The Players’ Tribune to announce his intentions to the sports world.
“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”
Him joining the Warriors leaves the Thunder with no replacement for him, while pondering some tough questions about their other star. Russell Westbrook is set to be a free agent next year, and it is more than likely that he will do the same thing Durant has done. That might make the Thunder trade Westbrook in an effort to get something in return, versus risking losing him for nothing.
According to the Bleacher Report, the Thunder will try to lock Westbrook up with a contract extension first. If an extension cannot be reached, they will look to trade him. No one expects Westbrook to accept an extension with Oklahoma City; chances are that he will get traded before the start of the season.
There will be teams lining up to offer the Thunder several trade packages for Russell Westbrook. Those teams may include the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. Then there is the one team that few people will talk about–the Chicago Bulls.
The Celtics are still looking for a star, while the Heat and Lakers are always in the running for star players. Put aside the biases for a moment and think about one the team that could offer a strong deal that the Thunder, which is the Bulls. And if it comes down to it, neither of the other teams have what the Bulls have to offer — Jimmy Butler. That is if the Thunder would not be receptive to another offer first.
The Chicago Bulls are void of a lot of trade pieces, but they can put together a couple of packages that should entice the Thunder to agree on a deal. One of those offers excludes a star player, while the other includes a star player.
For the Bulls, the first trade offer should consist of Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott, and the recently acquired Jerian Grant, along with two first-round draft picks. Is it enough for Russell Westbrook? Because of the uncertainty about his contract status beyond the upcoming season, the Bulls, along with other teams will not offer a ton.
It is obvious why the Bulls would do this. They would be giving up three players from their rotation for Russell Westbrook.
One of them, Mirotic, has star potential if he can become a more consistent player. That would appeal to the Thunder.
In his second year with the Bulls, Mirotic averaged 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, with a usage rate of 21.1 in 38 starts. What Mirotic needs to work on is his midrange game and defense. If he can hit the 17-foot jump shot with any type of consistency, he could easily become a 20 point-plus scorer.
Mirotic struggles with his defensive footwork with the Bulls. Many of his issues are fundamental in regards to knowing where to be and when. That can be hidden on a Thunder team with center Steven Adams as the anchor.
Because Mirotic is from Montenegro, he may not get caught up in the idea that he must play in a large market in order to be happy. Going to the smallest NBA market would not bother him as much as living up to the pressure of playing in Chicago occasionally does.
Doug McDermott would give the Thunder a sharp shooter, while Snell and Grant would be guys who can develop into solid rotational players. The draft picks are the icing on the cake.
The other trade idea that the Bulls can put together is intriguing. The Bulls can offer Jimmy Butler and a future draft pick for Russell Westbrook.
It may seem like the Bulls would not be giving up enough, but getting equal value for a player such as Westbrook will not happen. He is a top-five NBA player and those do not get traded for each other. This latter possible Bulls offer works for two reasons: salary control and star power.
The Bulls’ Jimmy Butler is not the star that Russell Westbrook is. That should not deter anyone. Butler is the most highly sought player on the NBA trade market, not named Russell Westbrook. Their salaries match up as an even trade. And if both the Bulls and Thunder want to explore the possibility of deal, the Bulls can sell the Thunder on the idea that Jimmy Butler is under contract for four more years. Oklahoma City would remain in play for a top-four seed in the Western Conference. That will keep the Thunder relevant for seasons to come.
Why would the Bulls do it?
When the Bulls looked at the NBA free agency market for this season they decided to only be interested in offering one and two-year deals. The contract that the Bulls have agreed to terms with guard Rajon Rondo is a two-year deal, with a partial guarantee for next season. The Bulls want to be big players in next year’s crop of NBA free agents. The Bulls top target is Russell Westbrook.
If the Bulls were to get Westbrook a year earlier, they could sell their culture on him from within, versus from afar. The idea of that will likely force the Bulls to give the Thunder and offer that will be tough to turn down.
The downside to the Bulls offering these packages is that on the surface it may not be enough. The Bulls, or any team trading for Westbrook, is assuming a risk because he can still walk as a free next season. That will have everyone pause when considering adding their best trade pieces in a deal for him. The Thunder getting something for Westbrook is better than losing him for nothing. That is the mindset of the majority of teams who will be interested, including the Chicago Bulls.
The moment that Kevin Durant announced that he was headed to the Golden State Warriors, the Russell Westbrook trade watch began. There will be several teams in line trying to trade for Westbrook, the Chicago Bulls likely have the best pieces to get a deal done.
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]