It seems that the Utah Jazz buying out the final months of Russell Westbrook’s contract and letting him hit the free agent market is not the foregone conclusion that some originally thought.
That Utah Jazz were a part of one of the first blockbuster deals before the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline when they acquired one-time league MVP Russell Westbrook in a three-team swap with the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The move was another step in an ongoing rebuild that is slightly ahead of schedule with Utah having a solid season and in contention for a playoff spot. Despite Westbrook still having value even as he exits his prime, the universal belief around the league was that the team would buy out his contract and send him packing.
However, a report on Friday suggests that there is a very real chance Russell Westbrook could finish out the last few months of his deal as a member of the Utah Jazz.
Utah Jazz and Russell Westbrook have had talks about remaining with team after trade
Yesterday, The Athletic’s NBA insider Tony Jones reported that the Utah Jazz and Russell Westbrook “have met and had multiple productive discussions surrounding his impending future as a member of the Jazz organization.” In those conversations, the nine-time All-Star has expressed a “willingness” to stay in Utah for the rest of the season.
It is a surprising development for two reasons. Firstly, because several playoff contenders — including the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers — have serious interest in acquiring Westbrook and giving him notable playing time.
Secondly, The Athletic revealed that the Jazz have been transparent with Westbrook about plans to play younger backcourt players on the roster and not guaranteeing that the future Hall-of-Famer will see a lot of playing time for the rest of the season.
- Russell Westbrook stats (’22-’23): 15.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 30% 3PT
Staying in Utah has pros and cons for Russell Westbrook. In playing less, he could avoid any injuries before trying for one last big contract in NBA free agency this summer. However, after a down year last season, then a bench role in 2022-2023, Westbrook does need to improve his value if he hopes to land a sizable deal on the open market.