Washington Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook has a bad reputation in some NBA circles based more on the size of his contract than the skill of his game. But with some fairly unmoveable contracts finding liberation after buyouts this season, is it a bridge too far to imagine the UCLA product on a new team via this path before the end of the season?
This is the question asked by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Pina, who points to the preponderance of big-name, big-money buyouts that have already happened this season ranging from LaMarcus Aldridge to Blake Griffin while asking whether the former Most Valuable Player might be a candidate for a similar outcome.
But does he make a believable case for it?
We all know how massive his current deal is — a virtually untradeable $93 million owed him should he exercise a player option for 2022-23. We also know Westbrook is still a good if not great basketball player who could legitimately help plenty of teams, like the triumvirate of clubs Pina mentions — the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1380947798212886533?s=20
“Imagine him on the Celtics or Heat or Bucks, as a spared-down, tighter version of what he is right now,” entreaties Pina.
“At virtually no cost all those squads (and several others) would love to throw the embers of Westbrook’s Hall of Fame prime onto their own bonfire, knowing the risk is low but the reward can be an unparalleled adrenaline boost.”
As compelling as this framing may be in the moment, several things would have to happen for such a scenario to take shape, and it’s far from guaranteed they would. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1380967393862778886?s=20
Chiefly, Westbrook would have to WANT to get bought out, and as Pina has rightly noted, thus far has not shown such an inclination — in fact, perhaps even the opposite of it. He’d probably also have to give back a sizeable chunk of guaranteed money, as the veteran’s minimum he’d garner this season plus whatever he’d make on the open market next and moving forward might not make a very appreciable dent in the Wizard’s cap situation in future seasons. https://twitter.com/TheCelticsWire/status/1381034288934699010?s=20
And while there’s plenty of draft-related reasons to not have Westbrook playing this season, they might want to have him around next and the season after, depending on what they can do to improve the team elsewhere. Recognizing that Pina is merely exploring the outer limits of the possible with intentionality tantalizingly dangled in front of a team that could use his confrontational style if not cap hit, we have to consign this one to an idea lost in a forest of “ifs” too implausible to take shape in 2020-21. Next season, however… This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook! [lawrence-related id=48871,48852,48835,48702] [listicle id=48874]