There's a chance Russell Westbrook will be wearing a different uniform this season.
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, Westbrook wants out of Houston. The Athletic's Kelly Iko and Sam Amick added that Westbrook has been "uneasy about the team's accountability and culture" and wants to join a team where he can have a role similar to the one he had with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rockets' Russell Westbrook wants out of Houston, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.- Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 12, 2020
Westbrook struggled in the season restart, but he finished his first season with the Rockets averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game, numbers that helped him earn the ninth All-Star selection and ninth All-NBA selection of his career. Even though he's not the easiest player to build around and is owed over $40 million in each of the next three seasons, there are several teams that could make a move for him if the Rockets do make him available.
Let's take a closer look.
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Hornets have emerged as a potential suitor for Westbrook.
The Hornets have emerged as a potential suitor for Rockets All-Star Russell Westbrook, sources tell our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania. pic.twitter.com/8hineXP3AN- Stadium (@Stadium) November 12, 2020
Matching Westbrook's salary wouldn't actually be difficult for the Hornets. They wouldn't have to match his entire salary because they are one of the few teams that has cap space available, but the combination of Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller gets them in the ballpark of Westbrook's salary for the upcoming season.
The appeal for the Hornets is that they'd get a multi-time All-Star who would make them much more competitive this season and next, to the point where they could compete for a spot in the playoffs. (There's also the Jordan Brand connection that can't be ignored). The appeal for the Rockets is Batum and Zeller only have one more year remaining on their contracts, opening the door for them to have cap space in 2021 when a number of A-list players could become free agents.
While neither Batum nor Zeller would be able to replace Westbrook's production, the Hornets own all of their future draft picks and have a number of young prospects who might be of interest to the Rockets.
It would be fascinating to see if the Hornets would be willing to part ways with either a draft pick or a young prospect to get Westbrook at this stage of his career.
New York Knicks
According to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, the Knicks have interest in trading for Westbrook.
Great reporting here by Tim and Woj. Adds detail to my report yesterday that teams believe Russell Westbrook can be had from the Rockets. They note a trade request is a "plausible eventual possibility." The Knicks and Clippers do have interest in trading for Russ, my sources say. https://t.co/cDuTwx2E7p- Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 11, 2020
Westbrook doesn't exactly fit the development timeline of RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson and isn't a natural fit with the defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau. (The one saving grace? Thibodeau has experience coaching an explosive point guard in Derrick Rose). And yet, Westbrook would bring some star power to the Knicks and could give them the boost they need to end their seven-year playoff drought.
Like the Hornets, the Knicks wouldn't have a hard time cobbling together contracts to match Westbrook's salary. Something along the lines of Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington gets them up to Westbrook's number.
Again, the appeal for the Rockets would be opening up cap space sooner than they would if they kept Westbrook.
Another team The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor mentioned as a possibility for Westbrook.
The problem the Clippers face is that they'd have to sacrifice a lot of their depth to acquire Westbrook - assuming, of course, that Paul George would be off limits in a trade with the Rockets, which is an assumption I'm willing to make. Unless they sign-and-trade Montrezl Harrell, which is a possibility, any deal would almost certainly have to include Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, Lou Williams and Rodney McGruder.
That's the team's starting point guard in Beverley, their starting centre in Zubac and their fourth-leading scorer in Williams for someone who isn't the cleanest of fits next to George and Kawhi Leonard. Westbrook at least has experience playing next to George, but it's hard to imagine him having a role similar to the one he had in Oklahoma City with George and Leonard on the same roster.
Nevertheless, the Clippers could do with an upgrade at point guard and could be looking to make a big move after how things ended last season. They deserve mention.
Otto Porter Jr. has a player option in his contract worth $28.5 million for the upcoming season. If he picks that up, which many are expecting him to do, the Bulls could build a deal around him to go after Westbrook. Something as simple as Porter and Thaddeus Young for Westbrook gets the green light on ESPN's trade machine.
Much of what has already been said applies to the Bulls - Westbrook wouldn't come close to making them a title contender, but he would increase their chances of making the playoffs this season. The difference with the Bulls is that they are a little further along than the Hornets and Knicks with players like Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. on their roster.
An added bonus: Billy Donovan coached Westbrook for four seasons in Oklahoma City and Westbrook is said to have a "unique relationship" with Mo Cheeks, who joined Chicago's coaching staff as an assistant this offseason. Unlike these other teams, the Bulls have people who have experience working with Westbrook.
Once again, the appeal for the Rockets is getting out of Westbrook's contract and opening up cap space sooner rather than later. If Porter and Young alone don't move the needle, the Bulls own all of their future draft picks and have some young prospects that could interest the Rockets. It would all depend on how badly the Bulls would want Westbrook.
Minnesota Timberwolves - The Timberwolves already have a point guard in D'Angelo Russell, but he's a good enough shooter to share a backcourt with Westbrook. Westbrook, Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would pack quite the punch offensively. Defensively ... not so much.
Phoenix Suns - The Suns are reportedly interested in trading for Chris Paul. If it doesn't work out, Westbrook could be their next option if they're determined to acquire an All-Star calibre point guard.
Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers would be able to build a package around Andre Drummond or Kevin Love depending on what they're looking to do.
Washington Wizards - This could be Westbrook for John Wall as they're on a basically identical contract.
Detroit Pistons - The Pistons have the cap space to trade for Westbrook without matching his entire salary. Alternatively, this could be a swap for Blake Griffin.
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