The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Should the Suns Try to Land Russell Westbrook?

After another night of insane NBA things, Phoenix Suns fans were thrust right back into Hypothetical Land, which is really the only place they’ve found any comfort over the last 9 years.

After the jaw dropping trade of Paul George to the Clippers, Woj reported that Russell Westbrook and his agent were discussing the potential trade of Thunder’s franchise icon.

Should the Suns make their move?

The case for trading Russell Westbrook:

  • He’s a soon to be 31 year old NBA Superstar who has finished in the Top 5 in MVP voting four out of the last 5 years, including winning it in 2017.
  • He’s averaged a triple double in each of the last 3 seasons
  • Post Durant, he led the Thunder to the playoffs in all three seasons
  • He’s as famous now as Charles Barkley was when the Suns acquired him
  • He’s an all out player every single game

The case against trading for Russell Westbrook:

  • He’s a soon to be 31 year old NBA Superstar who makes $170 million over the next four seasons, arguably the NBA’s 2nd toughest contract to trade other than John Wall’s.
  • He’s in statistical decline as over the last two seasons the following stats have trended the wrong direction: PPG, FT %, 3 pt %
  • Post Durant, he hasn’t been able to lead the Thunder out of the first round of the playoffs in the last three seasons
  • His fame arguably outweighs his on-court value, the heir apparent to Carmelo Anthony’s throne
  • He’s had a history of knee injuries

As with most acquisitions, it comes down to cost. 

The Thunder will not get anywhere near the same haul they did for Paul George.

Paul George meant Kawhi Leonard. Russell Westbrook doesn’t.

If the Thunder think they can pry coveted young players AND multiple unprotected first’s for Westbrook, the Suns and every other team should hard pass.

This is more likely to be a baseball style trade than an NBA blockbuster. Think the Diamondbacks trading Zack Greinke but if that deal happened a year or two ago.

If the Thunder want immediate, MASSIVE financial savings - the Suns are in excellent position to provide just that. The Suns could offer a series of expiring deals that could save the Thunder franchise literally hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years given their status as a repeat luxury tax payer.

A trade of Tyler Johnson, Kyle Korver(able to be aggregated in a trade two months after Suns acquired him per CBA rules, so September), Aron Baynes and a young player like Ty Jerome or Cam Johnson plus a protected pick would give the Thunder their financial savings and a few decent prospects to boot.

Of course, that would leave the Suns with Ricky Rubio AND Russell Westbrook, who would make over $50 million combined over the next three seasons. Not ideal and very possibly a legit deal breaker for the Suns. On the other hand, you’d have Russell Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook is a star. He’s a flawed star. He’s a ticket to the playoffs and a ticket to a first round exit. He’s an iconic NBA superstar and a tough player to gauge his on court value. All at the same time.

Should the Suns trade for Westbrook for expiring contracts, a player and a pick? Of course. 

Should the Suns trade for Westbrook and his bloated contract, injury risk and potential decline? Of course not.

So here’s my final verdict:

If I were the Suns, I would do it for a deal similar to the one I listed. It would inject some desperately needed life into the franchise, ease the franchise burden on Devin Booker and offer a path to the playoffs, no matter how brief their stay may be. Westbook comes with his own fair share of baggage but he’s an undeniable NBA superstar and those don’t come around very often. Given his contract, I’m not sure he can be very picky about his next destination and maybe the Suns nucleus of young talent would be enough to convince him it’s a worthwhile place for a fresh start.

But, I also don’t think there’s any real chance it will happen.

Given what we’ve seen from James Jones in the draft (trading down and taking a high floor/low ceiling player at #11) and in free agency (signing high floor/low ceiling players), it would seem out of character for him to make this kind of bold trade

Given Robert Sarver’s propensity to flinch at paying premium prices for premium players, it would see out of character for him to make this kind of bold trade.

And if they don’t make the deal, I wouldn’t blame them...this time.

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