After losing Kevin Durant, reports indicated that the Thunder were looking to get Russell Westbrook to renegotiate and extend his contract, but there was "no chance" of that happening with OKC. Westbrook is an unrestricted free agent in 2017, and there is a real fear within Oklahoma City that he will walk.
It would be crippling for the Thunder to lose two Hall-of-Fame level talents over two consecutive summers and receive nothing in return. So with that threat in mind, OKC is now open to trading Westbrook, a league source told me late Sunday, but they're still trying to get him to commit long-term.
"OKC is still trying to get Russell Westbrook to sign a contract extension," the source explained, "which he won't do because extensions at this time aren't in a player's best interest anymore. He won't do it."
If Westbrook did plan on staying with them, he'd be better off waiting until the summer of 2017, since he'd sign for an additional two years and $73.5 million.
So it doesn't make any sense for Westbrook to extend now and lose out on so much security. The star could change everything by telling OKC he'll agree to an extension, but that's unlikely, meaning if the Thunder keep him they'll be forced to take a significant risk. So they're listening to offers. The first issue is finding a deal that even works.
"No team is going to pay a hefty price without getting a commitment from Westbrook," the source said. "Someone may pay a cheaper price without a commitment, but OKC probably doesn't do a deal like that."
Without an agreement from Russ, it appears OKC's demand is still too high. The source did say it's likely the Thunder would grant a team permission to talk with Westbrook, but it's unclear if any teams already have. Still, it is evident that no team has received any indication that Westbrook would sign long-term.
What this all means is that ultimately Westbrook is the deciding factor.
"Russ is in control of the situation. Not any team," the source said. "He controls his destiny. But if a team is going to get him, they need a long-term commitment."
If the Thunder happen to find a team that has both the assets and the cap space necessary to complete a deal—and there are few of those that exist in the league—then the final hurdle will be to get Westbrook to agree to renegotiate and extend his contract.
Because of the complexity of the situation, the source said that "nothing's imminent" and a deal's "probably not going to happen."
But if it were to happen, then Westbrook would receive a new four-year, $118 million deal. He'd make an additional $8.8 million in 2016 and a total of $6 million more leading up to free agency in 2020. Compared to signing with a new team in 2017, he'd only lose out on one extra year, so the loss wouldn't be so significant. He'd be eligible for a new five-year maximum contract one year sooner as well, so one could make the argument that this route is appealing financially.
The Celtics certainly have the assets to complete a deal, and they can easily create enough cap space to renegotiate and extend Russ. OKC will be hard-pressed to find many teams that can do that, with so few having the necessary cap space and assets. So their choices are limited. Still, for anything to happen, Westbrook will need to commit.
The ball is in Russell Westbrook's court.
Once he makes a decision, only then can the dominoes fall.