After renegotiating his current contract, Russell Westbrook will be with the Oklahoma City Thunder through at least the 2017-18 season. The extension itself, while encouraging, has given the Thunder two seasons, before his player option ahead of 2018-19, to sell Westbrook on a long-term future in Oklahoma City.
That long-term pitch begins immediately.
And it will inevitably include Blake Griffin.
From The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Durant is deleted. Done and gone and no longer part of his world. “What’s next?” he asked – and the Thunder connected with Westbrook on a plan to construct their next act. Once, it was James Harden and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Now, it’s a superstar solo act – with an eye upon Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin in 2017 free agency. Griffin is an Oklahoma kid gone Hollywood, a star who has his own tensions with Chris Paul on the Clippers.
The Thunder shouldn’t have any trouble carving out the cap space necessary to chase Griffin next summer. And if he truly is fed up with the Los Angeles Clippers and/or Chris Paul, another early postseason exit could steer him in Oklahoma City’s direction. That’s where he was born, and he attended college at the University of Oklahoma City.
In order to preserve the flexibility needed to chase Griffin, though, the Thunder will probably have to wait on extensions for any combination of Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Victor Oladipo. They will have roughly $57 million in guaranteed money on the books for 2017-18, which is miles below the $102 million projection. But that’s before factoring in the cap holds of those three. And two of them, Adams and Oladipo, could command max extensions that pay them more than $20 million per year.
Add $20 million on to that $57 million(ish), plus cap holds, and things get tight with Westbrook and Enes Kanter on the ledger. It would still be possible for the Thunder to make it work while signing one to an extension, but there would be some salary-cap gymnastics involved, making it more likely the team waits on new deals for everyone who’s eligible.