The Oklahoma City Thunder officially “belongs” to 5-time All-Star Russel Westbrook. As he enters his prime, Westbrook recently signed a 3-year, $85 million contract extension that guarantees he stays with the Thunder over the next 2 years with a player option on the 3rd year. Thunder fans breathed a sigh of relief after a particularly devastating summer wherein they lost their resident superstar Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. There was even talk that Westbrook would follow suit either be traded or become a free agent after next year.
Durant’s departure was not only a shock to his former small-market team, but also to the millions of basketball fans who thought he would stay with the Thunder. After all, the Thunder was basically the best team in the recent playoffs until they lost a 3-1 lead to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. His departure raised a lot of eyebrows since he joined a powerhouse team. Durant is being vilified for wanting to “be part of something special” and the fact that he spoke out strongly against super teams in the NBA only to join one.
After years playing with Durant, Westbrook will likely be on fire next season as the undisputed cornerstone and franchise player of the Thunder. With his “loyalty” now backed up by a contract extension, Westbrook is getting the spotlight and now he needs to translate this into wins. Just to be blunt, a Thunder without Durant will be hard-pressed to reach the Conference Finals but Westbrook’s contract extension gives them time, time enough to surround him with a championship-caliber supporting cast.
Despite the usual knock on Westbrook that he is a ball hog, his impact and talent is just sky-high. Last season, he averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists, and 7.8 rebounds despite playing alongside one of the most potent scorers in history. Westbrook’s box scores are expected to be insane next season.
With the increase in salary cap, the Thunder are in an envious position to actually get another superstar or trade for good players to back-up Westbrook. Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin is one likely candidate since he is from Oklahoma and has been subject to trade rumors. Griffin is also perfect fit for Russ since he can play off the ball dominant guard. There are other stars who would be perfect running mates for Westbrook the likes of shooter Gordon Hayward.
Westbrook saved the Thunder’s future by signing an upgraded contract and made himself a hero. The Thunder are definitely in for leaner and harder times but they will have to make do with their do-it-all guard.
SIDELINES. Westbrook is considered one of the best all-around players in NBA history. Last season, he tied Magic Johnson’s record by posting eighteen triple doubles in 1 season, which is the highest in the past 50 years.