Less than one week before Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in a move that shocked NBA fans around the world, Russell Westbrook became the next Thunder superstar to find a new home, following a trade on Thursday that will send him to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and multiple future draft picks. Ahead of the trade, however, the 30-year-old point guard apparently considered one team as a potential destination, even if it may have meant waiting until December before he could make the move.
Early on Friday morning, SNY‘s Ian Begley reported that Westbrook “viewed the Knicks as a potential suitor” immediately after he and Thunder officials started talking about possible trades. While it is unsure whether Westbrook actually told his former team that he would like to be traded to New York, Begley stressed that the Knicks would not have had a way to acquire the 2016-17 NBA MVP during the offseason. Furthermore, he noted that there were “at least some” team officials who were “lukewarm” on the idea of landing the superstar guard, who has averaged a triple-double for each of the last three seasons.
As explained by Begley, the Knicks would not have been able to match salaries in order to offer the Thunder an acceptable trade package in exchange for Westbrook. Although the team has signed a number of proven free agents in recent weeks, the SNY reporter added that New York would have had to wait until December 15 before trading them to another organization. This, he said, would have likely been too long a wait for Oklahoma City.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are hoping to join these dynamic duos in Houston. pic.twitter.com/2zbfCgvgLh
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 12, 2019
In addition to the aforementioned complications, Begley further noted that a Westbrook trade would not have “[made] a lot of sense” for the Knicks for one important reason. As Westbrook still has four years and $171 million remaining on his current contract, paying him would prevent the New York outfit from making a big splash in the 2021 free agency season. A number of top-tier players — including LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum and 2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — are expected to be available that summer.
As recapped by ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, Russell Westbrook’s trade to the Rockets will reunite him with former Thunder teammate James Harden, where the two former MVPs are expected to form an explosive backcourt. Aside from eight-time All-NBA point guard Chris Paul, the Thunder will be receiving two protected first-round picks for the 2024 and 2026 drafts, and pick swaps for the 2021 and 2025 drafts.