With Paul George gone in a shocking deal, Russell Westbrook could be the next one on the trade block for the suddenly rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the early morning hours on Saturday, reports emerged that free agent Kawhi Leonard had chosen the Los Angeles Clippers — a team that a number of NBA insiders claimed had been taken off Kawhi’s list earlier in the week. As CBS Sports reported, part of the blockbuster move included the Clippers trading for Thunder forward Paul George, who, like Leonard, is a native of Los Angeles.
The deal will reportedly send a large package of draft picks to the Thunder, as well as forward Danilo Gallinari and second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The report noted that there had been simmering tensions between Paul George and Russell Westbrook, and when Kawhi Leonard pushed for George to also jump to the Clippers, he jumped at the idea and demanded a trade from the Clippers.
The move came as a shock to many, especially since most NBA reports said Kawhi’s decision was down to the Lakers and Toronto Raptors, and there had been no indications at all that Paul George would be traded. Leonard’s camp was very careful not to let any details slip during the free agent meetings, and reports indicated that they asked all teams involved not to leak any details about the discussions.
In the immediate aftermath of the blockbuster deal, there are already reports that Russell Westbrook will be the next on the trade block for the Thunder. If the team is going into a full rebuild, they would be expected to explore trade proposals for the former NBA MVP, Brett Dawson of The Athletic reported.
To answer the question everyone is asking, yes, I would expect this means OKC is exploring Russell Westbrook trades as well.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) July 6, 2019
There was some immediate speculation that the Los Angeles Lakers could try to scoop up Russell Westbrook, but the trade to land Anthony Davis has left the cupboard bare for the Lakers, and the team wouldn’t have the cap space for him even if they did want to trade.
So many people saying the Lakers should trade for Russell Westbrook now. The Lakers don’t have the ability to do that. They don’t have the cap space, nor do they have anything to send back to OKC as far as salary matching.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) July 6, 2019
It’s not immediately clear where the trade market could be for Russell Westbrook, but it could give the Oklahoma City Thunder the chance to build up a cache of draft picks and young players to spark a full rebuild. The franchise has been falling out of contention in the increasingly competitive Western Conference in the lead-up to the Paul George trade. After reaching the Western Conference finals in the 2016 NBA Playoffs and blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors, the Thunder were bounced in the first round each of the last three years.
The Paul George trade seems to indicate that the Thunder are looking to rebuild, and it remains to be seen whether Russell Westbrook will still be around on the other end of it.