The Oklahoma City Thunder will sign Russell Westbrook to a three-year deal worth $85 million. Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the agreement will add two years to the guard’s current deal, with a player option included for the 2018/19 season. Westbrook will sign the contract on Thursday, with a press conference planned during the day to announce the deal officially.
To date, Westbrook has played eight seasons in the NBA (all in Oklahoma) and will have to opportunity to take advantage of a rule that will allow him a higher maximum contract, due to playing ten seasons in the league.
Many had expected Westbrook to follow Durant out of OKC, via a trade or through free agency in 2017, but the Thunder made it a priority to secure the PG to a deal that would ensure that he would stay beyond the 2016/17 season. Increased cap space was available after the offer put forward to Dion Waiters was taken off the table, thus giving the go-ahead to the restricted free agent to leave for the Miami Heat.
Fans will be relieved to see Russ commit to the Thunder following Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors – receiving nothing in return. General manager Sam Presti can now focus on rebuilding a team in the post-KD era to remain competitive in the Western Conference. Oladipo has already been brought in from Orlando earlier this summer in a trade for Serge Ibaka, along with the signing of exciting Spanish prospect Alex Abrines, however bigger moves will surely be in the works in 2017.
Much will be expected of the man prominent pundit Skip Bayless described as ‘Batman’, as his numbers should skyrocket in the absence of Durant. 2014’s sample size looks promising as when KD was injured, Westbrook averaged a bewildering 30.7 points, 9.1 assists and 7.7 rebounds over 40 games.
The only possible negative for Westbrook is the fact that despite the financial benefits, he’s handing his prime years to the Thunder in the hope that they can rebuild successfully. Nonetheless, Presti is a shrewd general manager, and Westbrook will be a lot more confident in trusting him than many other general managers around the league.
Westbrook was voted fourth in the race for last season’s MVP, after averaging 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. He also achieved the impressive feat of 18 triple-doubles, matching Magic Johnson’s record in the process.