The two superstar model has never been more relevant in the NBA, as there are now 8-10 teams with two or more top 20-25 players as their figureheads.
Kawhi Leonard won a title last season in Toronto without an elite No. 2, but he also obviously thinks this is the way to go as well, as he more or less told Paul George to request a trade out of Oklahoma City. For the teams that already have superstars in place, the question now is – are their superstars good enough to win it all, or do we need an upgrade.
Russell Westbrook now becomes the hottest trade commodity on the market (which MetroBet originally discussed way back in May), as many teams will be asking Sam Presti about his price tag. It’s sure to be a hefty one considering the haul Presti just got for George.
The most likely destination for Westbrook if he is to be traded this summer is the Miami Heat, as Pat Riley looks to place a second star next to Jimmy Butler. Riley would have to gut the rest of his roster to pull off a Westbrook deal (Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro would all have to go), and it would be difficult to sign any leftover free agents considering we’re already at the point where we’re dealing with scraps.
The Sixers would have been an ideal landing spot for Westbrook, as a Westbrook – Joel Embiid 1-2 punch would have been lethal in an Eastern Conference that no longer features Kawhi. But it looks as though Elton Brand and the Sixers are going all-in on Ben Simmons, who is about to receive a five-year, $170 million extension.
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That’s not to say that the Sixers can’t trade Simmons as the centerpiece of a Westbrook deal, but it’s highly unlikely that that would happen this summer. If the Sixers get off to an underwhelming start next season, then we could see Brand look to shake things up.
Presti is in no rush to trade Westbrook and may let this thing linger until the February trade deadline or even next summer, when there would be more of a market for the former MVP.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix discussed trade options for Westbrook on Bill Simmons’ Ringer podcast this past weekend, and also spoke of the Knicks as a likely suitor. The Knicks obviously have the trade assets in place to pull off such a deal, but considering Westbrook’s massive contract, and the fact that he’ll be 31-years-old in November with a million miles of wear and tear on his body – New York would have to pause to make him the main building block moving forward.
Mannix also interesting enough said that the Celtics would have aggressively pursued a trade for Westbrook if they did not land Kemba Walker in free agency. Keep an eye on Boston the rest of the summer as they will be one of the more active teams in pursuing a trade. Danny Ainge knows that the Celtics are still not on par with the true title contenders (Lakers, Clippers, Sixers, Bucks), and will be looking for upgrades.
The Celtics still have a cache of young assets and draft picks to dangle, and it can’t entirely be ruled out that Ainge would actually look at pairing Walker and Westbrook together in the same backcourt. Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens are big small ball advocates and were fans of what Rockets GM Daryl Morey did in Houston with the pairing of James Harden and Chris Paul.
The issue for the Lakers in looking to bring Westbrook home to LA, and as a counter to the Clippers move for George, is – of course – that they surrendered nearly all of their assets in the trade for Anthony Davis.