Russell Westbrook has not voiced his intention of re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder. There is a growing speculation around the league that there is a chance he could become a member of the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of next season.
The Lakers believe they can sign Westbrook in free agency in 2017. If that happens, the team will immediately have a franchise player while still retaining its collection of promising young assets. However, recent Lakers rumors suggested it would be a smarter move for Los Angeles to trade for him now.
CBS Sports noted that the team who would acquire Westbrook in a trade will automatically inherit his bird rights. That team will be able to offer him a fifth year and more money.
Unlike what happened to Dwight Howard, there is little evidence to suggest Westbrook would want to leave two teams in one year. Aside from the obvious perks of playing for the Lakers, Westbrook is a Los Angeles native who values his Long Beach roots and UCLA Bruins heritage.
Sure, the Lakers are brimming with young talent. But none of them, with the exception perhaps of Duke standout Brandon Ingram, is projected to be a Westbrook-type superstar.
Uncertainty is the only thing that is certain in NBA free agency. If the Lakers sleep easy knowing Westbrook would definitely sign with them in 2017, they might be supplanted by other teams, most notably the Boston Celtics.
Silver Screen & Roll noted that the Celtics have assets that might be more appealing to the Thunder. Not only that, the Celtics also have a better collection of veterans than the Lakers.
In Boston, Westbrook will be playing alongside Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. In Los Angeles, his veteran support consists of Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng and Jose Calderon.
“What I’m hearing in Las Vegas from some GMs, not only are they hearing that Westbrook will get traded, it’s that it will be sooner rather than later, before the season starts,” said Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. “The most likely destination is the Boston Celtics.”
As for the Lakers, the team is unwavering in its stand on Westbrook’s upcoming free agency. ESPN’s Chris Broussard told MSG Networks that the Lakers strongly believe they can sign him in free agency. They would rather wait until the summer of 2017 than give up some of their assets now.
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