It is official: Russell Westbrook is going to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook has signed his contract extension (courtesy of ESPN) with the Thunder. What is next for the superstar guard and his team?
Now there are a couple of NBA rumors regarding who the Thunder will go after to be his new running mate. There are a few people who the Thunder may have in mind. The question is, will they target those players now or later?
Whoever Oklahoma City brings in will have to be an ample replacement for Kevin Durant. Judging from the latest NBA rumors, the object of the Thunder’s affection are a couple of similar players.
One of those players is great fit for the Thunder — Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward.
Gordon Hayward is somewhat of a household name. He plays in obscurity with the Jazz, therefore most NBA fans, at least those without the NBA League Pass, seldom get to watch him play. In case you have not seen Hayward play, his game is that to a poor man’s Kevin Durant. It is this reason why he is now being linked to the Thunder.
According to the website Yibada, Hayward, along with Atlanta Hawks‘ forward Paul Millsap, are the top players whom the Thunder will be after. The report suggests that both players will be on the Thunder’s radar going into the next offseason. Is it possible that Oklahoma City can make one of them a new addition before the end of the trade deadline in February?
Either Hayward or Millsap would make the Thunder instantly better as a team. No one will completely confuse them for Kevin Durant, but they are apt replacements. While Durant will be busy with the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook will have the Oklahoma City Thunder built to accommodate him.
Building a winner without rebuilding is what the Thunder is faced with. Any interest in adding a star player or two is the smart way to do things.
Taking a moment to examine the rumored interest in Gordon Hayward, one sees the cures to many of the Thunder’s ills.
For starters, Hayward can shoot. He is not a prolific three-point shooter. Connecting on less than 35 percent of his shots from behind the arc is proof of such. On the contrary, Hayward is great around the rim and in the midrange game. He has a three that is reliable enough to make the occasional big bucket. If he were to wind up with the Thunder, he would not have the burden of taking the last shot.
For the Thunder to get Hayward, they will likely have to wait until next offseason and pursue him in free agency. That may not be the case for Paul Millsap.
Depending on where the Hawks see themselves by the end of the upcoming season, they may be open to moving the all-star forward.
Millsap would be for the Thunder what they were hoping to get from Serge Ibaka before they traded him. The biggest difference is the scoring ability. Scoring is where Paul Millsap has the advantage. That would fit well on the Thunder.
After reinventing himself in Atlanta, going from a low-post player fighting hard for hustle points, Millsap is now an overall scorer. The added range on his jump shot will extend his career, giving it another act. His pending free agency status could lead to a trade. And the Oklahoma City Thunder have the pieces to get him.
Any possible trade between the Thunder and Hawks could revolve around Cameron Payne, Josh Huestis and draft picks. Another trade piece the Thunder has is center Enes Kanter. While the Thunder should look to keep him, Kanter is good low post scorer and a rugged rebounder. If the Thunder are unsuccessful in getting Paul Millsap in a trade, much like Gordon Hayward, they can wait a year.
Even with Russell Westbrook’s salary on the books, the Thunder could be staring at a cap figure of only $63 million. According Hoops Hype, there are only five guaranteed contracts on the books for the 2017-18 season. That includes Westbrook. Conceivably, the Thunder could add two near max players next season with a little maneuvering. It would help if the Thunder traded for one of those maximum salary players early.
With Russell Westbrook in the fold for the foreseeable future, the Oklahoma City Thunder are looking for a running mate to pair with him. There is an NBA rumor swirling around about their interest in Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap. If the Thunder were successful in adding either of them, they would close the gap between them and the Golden State Warriors.
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