Posted on August 4, 2016, by Travis Pulver
It looks like fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder will not have to wait till next season to find out if they are losing another superstar. After losing Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors, the talk has been centered around whether the team will be able to hold onto Russell Westbrook. When he becomes a free agent will they be able to resign him? Will they bother going that far or will they try to trade him first if they can’t sign him? Does he want to see what’s out there before making a decision? Or…
As one of the league’s best players, if Westbrook were to switch teams it would impact two franchises—whoever he signs with and the Thunder. Westbrook will make whatever team he is on better than it is, and with Durant gone, his departure would turn the Thunder from a contender into a bottom feeder.
Well—it looks like the Thunder will not have to worry about that; at least not for a couple more years.
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ESPN has reported that the Thunder and Westbrook have agreed to a new deal that will keep him on the roster for at least the next two years if not three.
His was going into the final year of his five-year, $78.6 million contract and would have made $17.8 million. Now he will make $26.5 million next season in the first year of a three-year deal that will see him make $85.6 million (if he plays through the contract). So now he will not get a chance to test the market till 2019, or he could opt out the final year following the 2017-18 season and test the market then (Sportrac).
He is scheduled to make $30.5 million in the final year.
Durant and Westbrook have been the dynamic duo for years in Oklahoma City, but with Durant moving to the West Coast next season, Westbrook’s fate was up in the air. The Thunder wanted him back because, without him, the team would not have any star power. They would certainly be able to afford to give him a max deal with Durant leaving, but would that be enough to keep him?
With the salary cap exploding, even role players are getting paid. So no matter where Westbrook might go, his bank account would grow significantly. However, would he get the kind of money he wanted from a contender? Everyone likes to get paid, but everyone also likes to have an honest shot at winning the championship too.
So when Durant left, there was a lot of concern over whether Westbrook would see the Thunder as having championship potential. They lost Durant along with Serge Ibaka, but they gained an up and coming star in Victor Oladipo (and Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis).
The Thunder were contenders last season when they got out to a 3-1 series lead over Golden State in the Western Conference Finals only to lose the series 4-3. Westbrook has proven he can carry the team in the past, but can he lead the group to the promise land without his partner in crime?
It looks like Westbrook is interested in finding out.