NBA

Russell Westbrook trade rumors: Clippers, Knicks among four possible landing spots for Houston star

Houston, we have a Russell Westbrook problem.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Wednesday night that the Rockets guard wants “out of Houston,” noting that the nine-time All-Star has been “uneasy about the team’s accountability and culture.” The Rockets have reportedly been protective of Westbrook and James Harden in trade talks so far, but their stance could change if Westbrook is hell-bent on leaving. (Harden is committed to the Rockets and “locked in” for the 2020-21 season, Charania reported.)

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Westbrook, who turned 32 years old on Thursday, averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game last season. He can still be a very productive player, but his contract would be a massive hurdle in any trade. He is set to earn $132.6 million over the next three years of his deal, including a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. 

Additionally, Westbrook is not exactly the easiest guy to fit within a system. Former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and coach Mike D’Antoni did their best to maximize Westbrook’s skills, and that ended with a conference semifinal beatdown against the Lakers. The Westbrook-led Thunder teams consistently flamed out in the first round of the playoffs. He wants a “floor-general role” like the one he had in Oklahoma City, per Charania, but there are a lot of teams with no desire to let Westbrook dictate their style of play.

Still, it’s rare for a former MVP to potentially be available on the trade market, so new Rockets GM Rafael Stone will likely be fielding several calls as the offseason kicks into high gear. Let’s take a look at a few possible landing spots if Houston decides to move Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook to the Clippers?

Why it could happen: Speaking of embarrassing postseason exits, hello Los Angeles! After blowing a 3-1 lead against the Nuggets in the 2020 NBA playoffs, the Clippers realized they needed a change at coach, swapping out Doc Rivers for Tyronn Lue. Perhaps they also need to shake up the roster.

The Clippers are interested in trading for Westbrook, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor writes, but a deal would likely destroy LA’s depth. Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac and Rodney McGruder would almost certainly have to be involved, unless the Clippers are sending out Paul George. (That should be off the table.)

Creating a “Big Three” of Kawhi Leonard, George and Westbrook would be a huge gamble considering both Leonard and George can become free agents in 2021. The Clippers could truly believe the talent of that trio would make them a championship team, but there is a lot of risk here.

Russell Westbrook to the Hornets?

Why it could happen: Westbrook, a Jordan Brand guy, jumping to the franchise owned by Michael Jordan. Gotta move those kicks, people.

OK, there may be slightly more to it than that. The Hornets have emerged as a potential suitor for Westbrook, Charania reports, and with Charlotte possessing cap space and large contracts (most notably Nic Batum’s expiring $27.1 million deal), the logistics wouldn’t be too difficult. Westbrook would give the small market a legitimate star and someone to build around.

However, the Hornets are about to finally have a clean cap sheet, and they may be better off developing the backcourt of Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier. Charlotte also has intriguing young forwards in Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington and the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Acquiring Westbrook would allow the Hornets to chase a playoff spot, but they did that dance before during the Kemba Walker years. It seems odd that they would want to start that cycle again. 

Russell Westbrook to the Knicks?

Why it could happen: O’Connor also mentioned the Knicks in his reporting on Westbrook, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because, well, it’s the Knicks. New York always seems to be thrown out as a destination when a star is suddenly available.

One could argue that Westbrook would at least bring some excitement to this long-suffering franchise and make the Knicks competitive. Maybe that’s enough for New York to present an offer. But this just doesn’t seem like a great idea.

Westbrook doesn’t fit the timelines of RJ Barrett (20) and Mitchell Robinson (22). He is a non-shooter and would eat up possessions that should go toward developing the Knicks’ youngsters. On top of that, New York shouldn’t be seeking out contracts that will serve as roadblocks in their rebuild.

And yet, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Westbrook holding up a blue and orange jersey by the end of the offseason. Again, it’s the Knicks.

Russell Westbrook to the Pacers?

Why it could happen: Would the Pacers be willing to swap one disgruntled player for another?

Indiana guard Victor Oladipo reportedly asked other teams whether he could play with them while he was in front of his Pacers teammates. Not great for locker room chemistry. The Pacers could use Oladipo as the main piece in a trade for Westbrook, giving both the chance for a fresh start. Or, if Indiana wants to go a different route, it could float out a package centered around Myles Turner, ending any questions about how he works alongside Domantas Sabonis.

Indiana is stuck in that good-but-not-great category. The Pacers may view Westbrook as their big opportunity to land an All-Star and advance in the playoffs after five consecutive first-round eliminations.

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