Paul George's time in Oklahoma City is over with the Clippers' trade with the Thunder bringing George to Los Angeles to pair with Kawhi Leonard. The stunning moves shook up the NBA and set the Clippers up as title contenders.
But where does the deal leave Oklahoma City?
The Thunder suddenly find themselves looking at a potential rebuild. They acquired a haul of first-round draft picks from the Clippers, plus a promising young guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a versatile veteran forward in Danilo Gallinari.
A complete teardown and rebuild could be in the works, though, as reports began to surface shortly after the trade that Oklahoma City was exploring the possibility of moving former MVP Russell Westbrook.
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It will be difficult to trade Westbrook. His contract (four years and about $171 million left) and playing style don't make him the most attractive acquisition. However, if the Thunder do decide to deal him for future assets that accelerate a rebuild, there are a handful of teams who could be viable destinations.
Pat Riley and company love star power in Miami. They already landed one huge name this offseason in Jimmy Butler, and Westbrook remains one of the best (if most polarizing) players in the NBA. For all the critiques of his game, Westbrook goes all-out all the time, and that tenacity would fit well within Miami's team culture.
The Heat have little to offer in terms of draft picks, but they have a decent mix of young assets (Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo) and an expiring contract (Goran Dragic) to put together the kind of high-floor offer that could be appealing to the Thunder. Miami's lack of draft picks would complicate a potential deal. Ironically, the Thunder already have two of the Heat's future first-rounders, acquired from the Clippers in the deal for George.
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Minnesota would love to find a taker for Andrew Wiggins and his albatross contract (four years and about $122 million left). His deal alone would nearly be enough to match Westbrook's salary in return. Wiggins is still just 24, and a fresh start in a low-pressure situation like an Oklahoma City rebuild could be just what the former No. 1 pick needs.
The Timberwolves' new front office regime made a serious run at D'Angelo Russell in free agency before missing out. Bringing in Westbrook to pair with their established young starter in Karl-Anthony Towns could be the impact move to get the T'wolves back to the playoffs. Westbrook has never played with a stretch-center like Towns, and the pair has the potential to be a formidable pick-and-roll duo.
New York Knicks
Desperate for a star to keep fans coming to Madison Square Garden and with so much remaining salary cap space, the Knicks are going to be included on a list of potential trade destinations for any big name. The current front office appears much more prudent than previous regimes, but after striking out on all the top names in free agency, could the Knicks trade for Westbrook in an attempt to save face? He won't make New York a playoff contender, but the front office might not be willing to wait much longer to bring in a marquee name.
New York has some promising young players to offer in Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson, plus a stash of first-round draft picks acquired from the Dallas Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal. They'd have to wait until December to include any of the players they just signed in a trade, but getting Westbrook at any time could be the star the Knicks need to eventually attract other big names in free agency.
Detroit has reportedly already shown interest in Westbrook, and the Pistons have the salaries to match and a hole in the backcourt. Andre Drummond (two years and about $55.8 million left) is the most likely candidate to be the centerpiece of any trade for Westbrook, with Reggie Jackson (one year, $18 million) and Tony Snell (two years, $23.5 million) also having salaries large enough to potentially include. In that scenario, the Thunder would also likely demand draft picks in return for taking on so much salary beyond this coming season.
Pairing Westbrook with big man Blake Griffin would be risky, given that each has a troublesome injury history. But when healthy, they're among the best at their positions. Westbrook's drive-and-kick ability could pair well with Griffin's improved outside shot, and they could also be a solid pick-and-roll pair. Two All-NBA players would give the Pistons a higher floor and much higher potential ceiling than they've had in several years.
It might not be the most glamorous destination, but 11 years with the Thunder have shown that Westbrook and his out-sized personality don't need a huge market to thrive. And the Magic might have the most pressing need for Westbrook, having been in search of a point guard for years now. D.J. Augustin was solid last season, but he's not the long-term answer, and we still don't know Markelle Fultz can be. After returning to the playoffs last season, the Magic could make a push for a higher seed with Westbrook running the offense.
Orlando has a slew of young bigs to offer Oklahoma City, plus all of their own draft picks moving forward. Aaron Gordon is still only 24, and Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba are both 21. Fultz is also 21, and while another trade would heighten the sad state of his young career, the former No. 1 pick has enough talent and promise that the Thunder could be willing to acquire him as a reclamation project.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.
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