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Why contending teams should avoid Russell Westbrook

The Paul George blockbuster trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this weekend captivated onlookers.

It was just one year ago that George committed to re-signing with the Thunder on a max contract. Outside of the opportunity to team up with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles, something else changed in that year.

Unforuntately for Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, this leaves them in a dire situation. Thy are no longer championship contenders.

This led to Russ meeting with Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Saturday with a potential trade being the topic of discussion.

On the surface, one might see Westbrook as an elite-level talent that every NBA team would want to add. That’s just on the surface.

Delving further into it, there are reasons contending teams should avoid trading for Westbrook. Here’s why.

His contract: It’s not team-friendly over the long term.

  • Westbrook will turn 31 during the early stages of the 2019-20 campaign in November. That’s still prime years.
  • However, the former NBA MVP is signed through the 2022-23 season for a total of $170-plus million.
  • This includes a ridiculous player option of $47.1 million for the 2022-23 campaign. Westbrook will be 34 years old.
  • It’s not as horrible as the untradeable Chris Paul contract in Houston, but it’s pretty bad.

The offense: Teams will have to cater their scheme around Westbrook.

  • This can’t be lost in the coming hoopla surrounding Westbrook trade rumors. He’s going to need a team to cater its scheme around him.
  • If you’re a contending squad, you already have an offense that’s catered to a specific star.
  • You simply just can’t throw Westbrook in there and expect him to fit in. That’s not how it works.

The examples in this regard are obvious.

Golden State Warriors: Will a ball-dominant Westbrook work in the same back court as Stephen Curry? That’s a major question, even after Golden State added D’Angelo Russell to the mix.

Boston Celtics: Having been in the market for a star player, Boston will certainly kick the tires on acquiring Westbrook. At issue here is the acquisition of fellow All-Star guard Kemba Walker. Again, both Walker and Russ are ball-dominant.

Philadelphia 76ers: Technically, Westbrook would be a tremendous fit with Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid. Assuming the trade would include Ben Simmons, Westbrook would act as an upgrade. Unfortunately, shooting would continue to be an issue for Philly. Westbrook shot just 43 percent from the field and 29 percent from distance last season.

Houston Rockets: Westbrook and James Harden in the same back court? If this sounds familiar, it should. The two played together in Oklahoma City earlier in their careers. It didn’t work. Ultimately Harden was traded to Houston for pennies on the dollar. The definition of insanity quote comes up here.

Toronto Raptors: After losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency, the defending champs could potentially make this work. They’d move the remainder of Kyle Lowry’s contract to either OKC or a third team while sweetening the pot with Fed VanVleet and/or draft picks. But that seems like a counter-productive move, making the Raptors a less-than-ideal fit.

We can go up and down the list and find flaws with contending teams looking to add Westbrook. It’s not just limited to those five teams.

There’s also something to be said about other contending teams that just don’t have the ability to take on Westbrook’s contract.

That includes the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, who have two max-contract players of their own.

Outside of fit and his salary, there’s a question about Westbrook’s mentality. He’s seen two eventual MVP players in Harden and Kevin Durant move on from that relationship. After finishing third in the MVP voting this past season, George is the latest to bolt from Westbrook.

Does this mean Russ is a locker room cancer? We’re not going to go that far. But he does seem to be high maintenance. This wouldn’t fit well with a contending squad.

Instead, teams that can’t be classified as contenders should go after Westbrook. They can build their offense around him and have the salary cap flexibility to make things work.

The New York Knicks make a ton of sense. They have been in the market for a true super star but continue to strike out. Adding Westbrook to the mix for a combination of Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis as well as draft picks would work. Though, this couldn’t happen until January due to NBA free-agent rules.

In any event, the idea of contending teams lining up to acquire Westbrook seems great. But it’s unrealistic. Instead, if he’s moved, it’s going to be a team willing to build its offense around the former MVP.