Thunder Extend Westbrook 5 Years $205 Mill
It’s been reported that Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to a contract extension to the tune of $205 million dollars, over the next 5 years after his current contract expires following the conclusion of this season. This makes Westbrook set to become the highest paid player in the NBA and means that he will probably finish out his career in an OKC uniform.
“We are extremely fortunate to have an athlete, competitor and person such as Russell wear the Thunder uniform,” Presti said. “To have him cement his legacy as a leader as we enter into our 10th season in Oklahoma City is extraordinary. I am extremely grateful to Russell, his family and to our ownership for the commitment and support that they have demonstrated in supporting our vision for the Thunder.”
In the statement, Westbrook, 28, said there was no place he’d rather be than Oklahoma City and that he was “so honored” to continue his with the Thunder career.
What does this mean for the Lakers? Over the past couple of years there have been rumors that Russell Westbrook could be looking at making a return back home to play for the Lakers once his current contract ran out. You can forget about those rumors for good now if you hadn’t done so already following the Lakers drafting Lonzo Ball. However this might have an effect on the Lakers ability to sign Paul George in free agency, as Russ is sending a clear message that he has every intention on staying put, and if George is able to develop chemistry with Russ over the course of the season, he may really give OKC some strong consideration being that they will be able to offer him the most money next summer.
Even if the Thunder have a successful season, they will be right up against the salary cap ceiling, even with Paul George’s and Carmello Anthony’s salaries coming off the books. They still owe a boat load of cash to Steven Adams the nest 4 years, Andre Roberson resigned for 10 million per year, making it hard for the Thunder to be flexible under the cap, if they are unable to retain George and Anthony. That being said, the Thunder front office have never been a group that have been eager to venture into going over the luxury cap threshold. It’s a major reason they don’t have James Harden now, as well as Serge Ibaka,and other productive players they had to let go of, in an effort curtail spending. Would the Thunder be willing to make an exception in this case however? Historically OKC has not been an attractive landing spot for free agents, especially high priced ones. If they are able to retain both George and Anthony, then they would have to be very content with the pieces around them because OKC would be hard pressed to sign anybody else above the veteran minimum.
If nothing else, retaining Russell Westbrook insures that they have one of the leagues premier players moving forward, however it does not insure guaranteed success moving forward if they are not able to keep high level players on the team with him. I think after this season both Melo and George will sign elsewhere leaving Russ by himself, and fighting year after year for an 8th seed in the playoffs.