Should the OKC Thunder bring back Russell Westbrook?

Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The NBA Trade Deadline is off and running, rumors are heating up, and moves are being made as each second passes. I am drinking coffee at 1:06 in the morning, former Oklahoma City Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each have new teams, and the entire Western Conference and NBA got a massive shakeup. So it is safe to say I will not sleep until the NBA Trade Deadline passes later this afternoon.

The second that we all received the Woj notification that future Hall of Fame point guard Russell Westbrook has been shipped to Utah and the Jazz plan to buy out the nine-time All-Star and two-time scoring champ, everyone wondered if Oklahoma City should bring back the 6’3 point guard.

Should the Oklahoma City Thunder bring back franchise icon Russell Westbrook after being bought out by the Utah Jazz?

Russell Westbrook called Oklahoma City home for 11 NBA seasons and earned a key to the city this past Summer when he opened up Futsal courts at a local High School. Westbrook is still beloved in Bricktown and will be the next member of the Thunder who has his jersey hoisted to the rafters and hang in eternity next to Nick Collison and, eventually, other franchise icons.

However, discussing the 2022-23 NBA season does not seem like a match for these once-coupled comrades. The first hurdle is the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have a roster spot available. The team would need to release a player to make room for a heroic return, and their options are limited.

The only players OKC could move on from without shelling out dead money past this season would be Darius Bazley and Mike Muscala. However, Isaiah Joe and Aaron Wiggins are each on non-guaranteed deals for next season, so it is unclear how much of that money they would owe in this hypothetical scenario. Nevertheless, they by no means would be on the chopping block.

Waiving Darius Bazley (or trading him for an equally easy expiring deal to waive) would not be the most challenging thing in the world. Still, the Thunder are comfortable keeping the former first-round pick past the deadline, and his skillset helps OKC in different matchups (given the lack of healthy bigs) than Westbrook does.

Past that hurdle of needing to find a roster spot, there are better-equipped contenders who seem to be seeking Russell Westbrook. Namely, the Clippers are in pursuit of the top-75 player of all time and looking to add him to their core of Kawhi Leonard, fellow former-Thunder star Paul George, and an awkward backup reuniting of Westbrook and Reggie Jackson.

The Chicago Bulls are also sniffing around Westbrook, as former bench boss for Oklahoma City Billy Donovan paces the sidelines in the Windy City.

Russell Westbrook can help a team win games and has accepted a bench role in the right situations. He is averaging 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and a steal per game while shooting 41 percent from the floor. I still do not think he is at the point of riding into the sunset on a feel-good deal to return home to Oklahoma City.

The bottom line is, despite the love felt on both sides, this is just not the right time or place for either party.

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