They say where there’s smoke there’s fire but the NBA trade landscape this time of year has more cough-inducing fumes than a 1980s dive bar. Just about every star player in the NBA has the potential of changing locations this summer, including LeBron James. Russell Westbrook is another former MVP who has been mentioned in trade chatter in the past few weeks as The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo spoke about Westbrook’s situation on a recent podcast, and this week the Suns were heavily rumored to be interested in acquiring the Thunder star point guard.
Phoenix would certainly have the pieces to land Westbrook as they could dangle whatever pick they get in the lottery and even Devin Booker. The idea would be to accelerate the Suns’ process into turning themselves into a legit playoff team. Westbrook would give Phoenix that opportunity, even if the Suns wouldn’t be discussed as a real title contender. At this point Robert Sarver would just be content with getting a playoff berth each year.
Of course the main team interested in Westbrook if he is indeed put on the market would be the Lakers, as Westbrook is a Los Angeles native and the purple and gold have been fascinated with the prospect of landing him in a trade. The Lakers would need to part with nearly all of their young chips in oder to land a player of Westbrook’s ilk.
The idea of the Lakers landing both Westbrook and George in a package deal, which has been whispered about as well, is entirely absurd as LA barely has the assets required to land one All-Star in a trade – let alone two.
The Knicks are another team to watch when it comes to Westbrook. If they lose out on Kyrie Irving to the Nets, Lakers, Clippers or Celtics the Knicks will immediately turn their attention to another star point guard in Kemba Walker. If they lose out on Walker, then there could be a push to make a trade. Of course, everything involving the Knicks right now centers around whether or not they’ll get the No. 1 pick and subsequently generational talent Zion Williamson. If New York does not land the top pick, then they will surely entertain trade scenarios.
It would be a Thunder fans worst nightmare for sure, but there is the outside chance that Westbrook and Kevin Durant could re-join forces in Manhattan.
The Celtics also will be looking to bring in a top point guard if Irving flees in free agency, which at this point is expected. Danny Ainge is a go big or go home executive, and if the Celtics are unable to pry Anthony Davis from New Orleans – Ainge could refocus his efforts toward Oklahoma City.
More likely than Boston looking at a Westbrook trade is the Bulls, who will be in a similar situation to the Knicks. The disappointment of not landing Williamson with the top pick could lead to Gar Forman shifting his attention to a speedier rebuild.
The model here is actually Ainge’s Celtics from last decade, as they lost out on Durant in the draft and were saddled with the No. 5 pick. Boston traded away the No. 5 pick, future picks and nearly all of its young talent and wound up getting Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in return. Chicago could do a similar thing by packaging whatever pick they land with players like Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Wendell Carter, Otto Porter in exchange for a superstar like Westbrook. By making this sort of blockbuster trade, the Bulls would also have enough money leftover to go after one of the top free agents available.
All of this speculation centers around whether or not Thunder GM Sam Presti would even entertain a Westbrook trade. Presti pulled off a miracle last summer by getting Paul George to stay. Was another playoff disappointment this year enough to make him want to blow things up and start from scratch? Highly unlikely, but then again we live in a basketball age of highly unlikely becoming reality overnight.