Just when Russell Westbrook was becoming the focus of several NBA trade rumors, the superstar point guard stunned everyone. Westbrook has agreed to a three-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Sources have told ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Ramona Shelburne that Westbrook and the Thunder have come to terms on a three-year contract. The total worth of Westbrook’s deal is for $85.7 million. He is scheduled to sign it before the end of today.
There are a couple of particulars to the deal that Thunder are handing their point guard. On the surface, Russell Westbrook’s new deal is an extension, but with a twist. His existing contract with the Thunder has been ripped up in place of a new one.
The Thunder were slated to pay Westbrook $17.8 million this upcoming season. He will earn $26.5 million instead. The Oklahoma City Thunder put together a contract extension that is similar to what the Houston Rockets gave (courtesy of Sports Illustrated) James Harden. It is an offer that basically eliminates the current contract in favor of a new deal.
BREAKING: Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City Thunder agree in principle to 3-year deal worth $85.7M, per sources: https://t.co/1u6MWW2QSk
— ESPN (@espn) August 4, 2016
There are two differences between Russell Westbrook’s and James Harden’s deals. One is the duration. Harden signed for four years; Westbrook is on board for three. Also, only two seasons of Westbrook’s new money are guaranteed.
The latter will factor into Russell Westbrook’s free agency status for 2017. Oklahoma City is guaranteed to have Westbrook for next season. The Thunder have control over his contract in the 2017-18 season. What they can do is either keep him beyond this year, or trade him to a team in an effort to get a good haul in return.
For the final year of the deal, Russell Westbrook has a player option.
The hope is for Westbrook to agree to stay with the Thunder in Year Three. Oklahoma City will be ensured of having a top-5 NBA player to build around for at least three seasons if he does. That gives them some more time to find talent and develop it.
Most Points Scored and Assisted On Per Game – Last Season
James Harden 46.8
Russell Westbrook 46.3
Stephen Curry 45.5
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 4, 2016
It would have been much harder for the Thunder to find a suitable trade for Russell Westbrook than it was to come up with a new deal. His production is rivaled by only a couple of players. Last season, the All-Star had the second-most combined assists and points, with 46.3 average per contest. He trailed only James Harden, who had an average of 46.8. Westbrook even bested NBA MVP Stephen Curry. Curry was third with 45.5.
Russell Westbrook’s new contract is the confirmation that the Oklahoma City Thunder is his team. With the departure of Kevin Durant that is now indisputable. Durant left the Thunder for the Golden State Warriors after nine seasons. Together, Westbrook and Durant were always in the mix for an NBA title. With the former MVP now gone, the onus is on Westbrook to keep things afloat.
The Thunder’s cupboard is not bare. Steven Adams is only getting better. Enis Kanter will provide much-needed low post scoring. Then there is Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo was added in a draft night trade (via ESPN) with the Orlando Magic. If he can fit in well with Westbrook, that would give the Thunder one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Their abilities compliment each other on paper. On the court they should be fine as well.
Oladipo plays just as well without the basketball as he does with it. Playing in the Western Conference, where the pace is faster and more free-flowing will help his ascension in the ranks. How he continues to develop could play a role in Russell Westbrook’s decision on free agency in 2018.
The downside to Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City Thunder agreeing on a new contract is that the NBA trade rumors will now cease.
What made Westbrook’s pending free agency status fun was pondering which team he would play for next. Rumors of Russell Westbrook going to the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers kept us intrigued. Because the Thunder have quelled any thoughts of a Russell Westbrook trade, the narrative changes. The question becomes, will the Thunder now become the team that trades for another star?
Getting Westbrook to sign instantly turns the Thunder into buyers during trades. The pieces are there to make any deal necessary. And truthfully, the Thunder are one player with all-star potential from catapulting back into the title picture. The biggest hole on the roster is at small forward. Could Oklahoma City go after Gordon Hayward, Jabari Parker, or Khris Middleton? Because Russell Westbrook is in for the long haul, those NBA rumors can begin.
[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]