During the regular season, the Oklahoma City Thunder emerged as the biggest threat to the reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder may have lost one superstar, Carmelo Anthony, in the last offseason, but Russell Westbrook and Paul George played better with just the two of them leading Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, the Thunder failed to reciprocate their regular-season success in the NBA Playoffs 2019 where they suffered an early exit from the hands of the Damian Lillard-led Portland Trail Blazers.
In an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Bills Simmons of The Ringer and Ryen Russillo of ESPN discussed the possibility that Thunder General Manager Sam Presti could trade the face of the franchise, Russell Westbrook, in the 2019 NBA offseason. With their inability to contend for the NBA championship during his leadership, Russillo believes that it’s time for the Thunder to part ways with Westbrook.
“If I were Presti I wouldn’t make it known publicly, but I think you get a dollar on a dollar for Westbrook right now,” Russillo said, as transcribed by Metro USA.
“What’s the point in OKC? What’s the point of bringing everyone back and having Westbrook as the ring-leader? I understand what he means to Thunder fans. You lost two MVPs and this MVP took your money and wanted to stay home. He decided to stay. But you lost to one rookie scorer in the playoffs last year. Oklahoma City is held hostage to Westbrook in a way that I haven’t seen since Iverson was with the Sixers.”
The Ringer‘s Bill Simmons doesn’t think “there’s a chance in hell” that the Thunder will really consider sending Russell Westbrook to another team. Westbrook has done lots of great things in Oklahoma City. Rewarding his loyalty with trade will definitely anger the Thunder fans. However, Simmons strongly believes that as of now, moving Westbrook is the “best thing” the Thunder could do.
If he’s Thunder General Manager Sam Presti, Simmons said that he will be trading Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and salary cap space. Trading for Westbrook will undeniably have a huge effect on the Lakers’ salary cap flexibility, but the idea of pairing him with LeBron James will be intriguing enough for the Purple and Gold to explore.
In exchange for Russell Westbrook, the Thunder will be acquiring two young and talented players, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, who could help them rebuild the franchise around Paul George. Ball is still far from reaching the level of Westbrook, but a pass-first point guard like him will be an incredible fit to the ball-dominant George.
After suffering another disappointment, it remains a huge question mark what the Thunder plans to do in the 2019 NBA offseason. Expect more rumors to circulate when the 2018-19 NBA season is officially over.