The Thunder need Russell Westbrook to sign an extension this offseason

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 03: Russell Westbrook
PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 03: Russell Westbrook /

With the free agency moratorium looming most Thunder fans minds were on Russell Westbrook.

Just prior to the official start of free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a huge splash, acquiring forward Paul George from the Indiana Pacers.

Now, there are a lot of reasons why this trade is a great move for the Thunder. General manager Sam Presti was not only able to acquire an All Star caliber player, but created extra salary cap space in the process. The trade shows that the Thunder organization is committed to winning now.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder /

Oklahoma City Thunder

The organization still has work to do this offseason. It’s certain that Presti is not done working his magic, as he’ll continue to find ways to bolster the roster.  There is still room for improvement, and the Thunder will definitely explore every possible option in the upcoming weeks.

However, the Thunder’s top priority this offseason needs to be centered around their franchise player.

For the state of the franchise, it is crucial for the Thunder to convince Russell Westbrook to sign a contract extension this offseason.

Why is it crucial, you ask? It’s simple: don’t let history repeat itself.

Let me take you back to July 4, 2016. On this day (almost a year ago), Kevin Durant shocked the world by signing with the Golden State Warriors. Durant, who served as the face of the franchise since the Thunder came to Oklahoma City, was suddenly gone, and it was unknown how the Thunder would respond to the move.

However, Russell Westbrook wasn’t phased by Durant’s departure, and quickly took over as the face of the franchise. Westbrook had a historic season, as he joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double in a single season. His superb season also earned him the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.

Westbrook single-handedly kept the faith alive in Oklahoma City. With a roster full of young and inexperienced players, Westbrook took the franchise on his back, as he carried the Thunder into the NBA Playoffs.

With Westbrook due to be a free agent next summer, the Thunder need to make sure they keep him around for the long-term. The organization can not afford to lose another superstar, so the they must ensure that they lock up Westbrook before it’s too late.

A contract extension for Westbrook this offseason would greatly benefit the future of the Thunder franchise.

For starters, knowing that Westbrook will be around long-term could be enough to keep Paul George in town. The Thunder already own George’s Bird rights next summer, which allow them to offer  a longer-term max contract . These two elements alone could be too enticing for George to walk away from.

Must Read: Paul George Trade Q and A: Our own Jeremy Lambert answers some questions regarding the Paul George trade

Along with those elements, George could be a very good fit alongside Westbrook. When the two are on the floor together, George can benefit from Westbrook’s ability to create open shots for his teammates. He is also a good ball-handler, and could definitely run the Thunder’s offense when Westbrook takes a rest.

Now, it’s unfair to say George is the team’s “second option.” However, he won’t be forced to be “the guy” like he was for years in Indiana. Westbrook and George will take time to gel together, but there is no reason why these two players can’t become one of the best duos in all of basketball.

With the hopes of keeping George in OKC, Westbrook’s future will determine what the team is able to do on the free agent market. Key free agents might be hesitant to sign in OKC, as it is not certain that Westbrook will be with the organization a year from now.

The current NBA has a “team-up” mentality. The top players constantly look to surround themselves with other superstars in hopes of winning a championship. Having the reigning MVP in the mix long-term will be more appealing for potential free agents (including George) to consider OKC for future landing spot.

In regards to the fanbase, it would be a terrible blow to lose another superstar via free agency. Durant signing in Golden State was a tough pill to swallow, but having Westbrook leave would be a devastating blow to the franchise.

The organization must do everything in their power to keep Westbrook in the mix. Yes, he has his flaws (like every player), but he is a great fit for Oklahoma City. No spotlight is too bright for him, as this past season showed he is more than capable of leading a franchise.

It’s simple: the focus for the offseason should be to convince Russell Westbrook to sign a contract extension. Sam Presti and crew must do everything in their power to convince Russ that OKC is where he belongs.