For much of the last week, it’s been clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder are looking to enter a major rebuilding program, which will entail trading their one remaining star, guard Russell Westbrook. This followed the trade by the team of Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, for a long list of draft picks belonging to both the Clippers and the Miami Heat. The Thunder also traded Jerami Grant this week and got an additional pick, per ESPN.com.
Several teams have been named as possible destinations for Westbrook, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets. But the one mentioned most of all has been the Miami Heat, a team that’s always looking for star power. Adrian Wojnarowski reported for ESPN earlier this week that Westbrook and the Heat have mutual interest.
Now, an ESPN roundtable has looked at where the former league MVP might end up- and one participant thinks a Westbrook deal to Miami is inevitable.
“I think Miami is the only place that makes any sense,” Tim Bontemps said as part of the roundtable. “People around the league consider it an inevitability that he will wind up there at this point, too,” he added.
Others on the “5 on 5” panel, including Dave McMenamin, also predicted that Miami is the most likely spot, believing the 74-year-old Heat team President Pat Riley will make a move for the star player.
Panelist Nick Friedell said that while he wouldn’t trade for Westbrook, “in Miami with [star forward Jimmy] Butler, there would be plenty of storylines for a mediocre team.” Malika Andrews agreed, adding that Westbrook deserves the chance to go to Miami, and that “the front office shouldn’t banish him to Timbuktu.”
The Miami Heat are reportedly interested in bringing Russell Westbrook to Miami.
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Only one panelist, Mike Schmitz, had a different answer: That Westbrook should go to the Minnesota Timberwolves, in order to play with young big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
It’s not clear how close a Westbrook trade is to taking place, but it is clear that any team trading for the player will have to take on a huge amount of money- four years and $171 million- for a player who is entering his 30s.
The Heat are also lacking in salary cap space and would need to send out salary, either to Oklahoma City or a third team, in order to make a trade for Westbrook work. And as Friedell said, the Heat would have to find a way to get Westbrook and Butler to coexist, as both are ball-dominant players.