With Kevin Durant calling an end to his 9-year tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Supersonics in order to join the Golden State Warriors, the organization now has a decision to make in terms of their star point guard Russell Westbrook. If he does not decide to sign a contract extension with the Thunder, do they trade him away? Seems the logical step for the franchise given that Westbrook is entering the last year of his contract, making him a free agent after the season’s end. OKC would want something in return instead of simply losing another superstar due to the free agency.
The organization should do their best to have Westbrook sign a contract extension because a player of that caliber is irreplaceable. They would be losing a player that averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. Not only is Westbrook phenomenal statistically, but the energy he brings onto the court on any given night is exceptional. Any team would love to have a player with the same heart and tenacity that he plays with.
Aside from his natural ability and character, this upcoming season will allow the point guard to further his game to another level – being the outright leader and superstar of the team. At times the Durant and Westbrook duo came under scrutiny by the media because of the tension that was shown between the two during the course of the seasons. But that will no longer be a factor. This will be Russell Westbrook’s team from this point on. He should be able to elevate his play in knowing that he will be the primary ball handler, in comparison to the previous years where he shared that task with Durant.
Furthermore, Westbrook should have one the best seasons of his career in the 2016-2017 because he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder, knowing that he has to prove that he can lead his team to success. The Thunder already has a great supporting cast surrounding Westbrook with the likes of Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters and newly acquired Victor Oladipo. It is not as if they have nothing that can convince Westbrook to further his stay with the Thunder.
But in the case that Westbrook decides to play out his contract, the Thunder should put the effort to trade him away in return for other valuable pieces they can add to their team. They cannot just leave themselves empty handed. If so, the organization would potentially get turned on its head from being one game away from making it to the finals to fighting for a playoff spot. It would be a big blow for an organization with an amazing fan base to lose two superstars in consecutive years, whilst receiving nothing in return.
It would be a demoralizing end to the championship potential that was shown over the last few years, to then have to start from zero in search for another player who can lead the charge in the hope for a championship. Not to say that it cannot happen, but it has the possibility of being a lengthy process. This would be tough for the organization and the fan base in having to lower their season expectations for their team.
It will be an interesting season for the Thunder, and perhaps with a good start to the year they will convince Westbrook to remain with the team knowing he has enough skilled players around him. But until then, the organization will need to prepare for what is to come.