Russell Westbrook preference of Miami or contender will limit OKC Thunder trade options

Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder are in full on rebuild with Woj tweet confirming Russell Westbrook is open to moving and cites the Heat as one preference.

The OKC Thunder rebuild is in full motion with Paul George and Jerami Grant out the door in the past few days. The next and biggest chip to fall for the squad will be the exit of their superstar and captain Russell Westbrook.

Adrian Wojnarowski article late Monday evening confirms the reports which surfaced this weekend that Russell Westbrook is not only open to a trade but also has a preference to land with a competitive team and the Miami Heat seem to be at the top of his short list.

"Westbrook wants to play for a team pursuing contention, which is no longer the case with the Thunder after George forced a trade to the LA Clippers to partner with Kawhi Leonard."

That fact limits Sam Presti’s options as most of the teams who need a starting point guard don’t necessarily fall in that category. Nor does the OKC Thunder General Manager have the benefit of capitalizing on the leverage he had when he traded Paul George to the Clippers to obtain a rising young star (Shai Gilegious-Alexander) and an unprecedented five draft picks.

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In the George scenario because his trade request was kept under wraps it allowed Presti to assert pressure on the Clippers by suggesting he had Raptors GM Masai Ujiri considering a package to send both George and Westbrook to Toronto.

The veracity of that option is somewhat questionable but the fact remains he had LA Clippers GM Lawrence Frank between a rock and a hard place. Kawhi Leonard told the Clippers he wanted George and their ability to land him would solidify his choice. Armed with that certainty Frank had to serve up a package to cement bringing George to the Clippers.

In the case of Westbrook, Presti simply doesn’t have the same flexibility. First of all, everyone knows Russell is now open to moving. The exit of Grant confirms the Thunder are in rebuild mode and there is the Westbrook supermax contract following a poor shooting season to contend with.

On top of all this, for Presti to send Westbrook to an uncompetitive team after the point guard has repeatedly demonstrated loyalty to OKC might be a public relations nightmare.

This becomes important since OKC isn’t exactly a market free agents clamor to join. Throughout the history of the franchise, their reputation has been built on how they treat their players, he can’t afford to deviate from that image now, especially with their generational star.

Therefore, Presti’s options are limited. To retain their image he’ll need to placate Westbrook’s request to go to a contender. To that end, Adrian Wojnarowski implies the early frontrunner is the Miami Heat.

Certainly, Presti will look at all options and it may require a similar situation to what the Heat did to land Jimmy Butler with three other teams being in the mix. That said, the Heat doesn’t have draft picks to target as they used those up to get the Butler deal done (two of which now reside with OKC following the George trade).

"The Miami Heat have expressed interest, a potential destination that also appeals to Westbrook, league sources said."

Moving forward, Presti is now under the gun to try to facilitate a trade quickly. The priority for the Thunder GM will be to get the best package possible to bolster their rebuild.

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Stay tuned with Thunderous Intentions as we dive into plausible trade scenarios with teams who’ll covet Westbrook with a view to meeting his request but with emphasis on the OKC Thunder getting value in return.