How the Oklahoma City Thunder Can Build Around Russell Westbrook

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So if you aren’t excited yet, you should be as the Thunder are officially bringing Russell Westbrook back on a 3yr/85 million dollar contract extension. While the deal includes an opt out after the for the 3rd year, I wouldn’t make more of that than it really is. Basically the last year opt out is a way for Westbrook to maximize his earning potential and sign one last mega contract.

So now that Russ is officially back the question turns to how the Thunder can continue to build a team around him. According to Jon Hamm (an NBA salary cap guru) the Thunder should have $5.247 million in cap room.

So that doesn’t sound like much, but the Thunder could also trade their 2017 and 2020 1st round picks in a deal that would bring back players. They can’t trade Ersan until August 22, but his 8.4 million jumps the amount of salary the Thunder could take back in a trade to $13.647 million. You could also add in Kyle Singler at $4.837, Anthony Morrow at $3.488 million, or Mitch McGary at $1.526 million. While there is no way that a team would just take all these players and give the Thunder a really good player or even an all star, but there are several scenarios where I believe these contracts and the combination of draft picks could be very enticing to a team looking to get younger or offload players they don’t want to keep, or would potential lose in Free Agency.

So with this in mind, here are a couple scenarios that could open the door for the Thunder to swoop in and find players via the trade market.

  • A team is wanting to get younger and has players signed to substantial contracts that don’t quite fit in with their young up and coming nucleus of players. The perfect example of this is the Denver Nuggets.

Muddily, Harris, Murray, Jokic, and Barton are all 25 or younger. Danilo Gallinari is 27 and Wilson Chandler is 29. While the case could be made that the Gallinari would fit in with this group, Chandler is certainly a guy who is obtainable seeing as he will be past his prime when the Nuggets are ready to compete. Would the Nuggets take Kyle Singler, the rights to Semaj Christon and the Thunder’s 2020 1st round pick for Chandler? The money works. What if the Thunder included their 2017 1st round pick? Could you get Chandler and maybe Gaillnari as well? While Chandler AND Gallinari might be a stretch, surely adding two first round picks could result in Chandler and another solid rotation player from the Nuggets.

  • A team is wanting to move on from a player with a substantial contract and/or has a player that is about to hit restricted Free Agency and they don’t want to match the contract or extend an qualifying offer.

The perfect example of this is the Sacramento Kings. Rudy Gay is making $13.3 million this season with a player option for next year. Ben McLemore has never really fit for the Kings and will enter restricted Free Agency next year. The Kings could be looking a a situation where they lose both players for nothing next season (as Gay could opt out and McLemore could go somewhere else in Free Agency). So why wouldn’t they at least want to get something of value in return. Would sending Ilyasova, Singler, Morrow and the Thunder 2017 and 2020 1st round pick to the Kings result in the Thunder getting Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, and even quite possibly Willie Cauley-Stein?

  • Why I wouldn’t go after Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is an incredible player but the problem with adding him is that you would have to at least trade Enes Kanter to do so. Further Blake Griffin provides little in the way of floor spacing and further complicates an offense that already would feature 3 starters (Adams, Russ, and Roberson) that aren’t known for their shooting abilities.

What I would Do

I would do everything in my power to make a hybrid of sorts deal with both teams. I would attempt to bring Wilson Chandler in for Ilyasova and 2020 1st round pick and a couple 2nd round picks if necessary.

Then I would attempt to get Ben Mclemore for some sort of combination of Singler, Morrow, Christon, and 2nd round picks.

That is unless you could get both Chandler and Gallinari from Nuggets

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