The OKC Thunder managed to lock up Russell Westbrook for the next six years after the reigning MVP signed a whopping $205 million contract extension.
Russell Westbrook now has the largest guaranteed contract in NBA history. After a stellar MVP season, the OKC Thunder wisely gave Westbrook an offer he couldn’t resist. League sources said the contract extension is good for 5 seasons and is worth a jaw-dropping $205 million. Additionally, the contract provides Russ with a player option that he could exercise on the 2022-23 season.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 29, 2017
After letting Kevin Durant go last season, the pressure was on for the Thunder to keep Russell Westbrook. There was no way the franchise was going to recover if they let go of the reigning MVP. Of course, it wasn’t like Westbrook wanted to get out of Oklahoma in the first place. Unlike KD, Russ made sure that everyone knew he wanted to be in OKC. For their part, Thunder management knew that that sentiment wasn’t going to last long. While competitive, the 2016-17 team was far from dominant. Sam Presti knew that if he wanted to keep Russ, he had to make some drastic moves.
'Loyalty is something I stand by' — Russell Westbrook 2016 pic.twitter.com/oOclRfxIoX
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 29, 2017
A big off-season for OKC
And boy, did Sam Presti make the big moves in the off-season. First, he pulled off the Paul George trade with Indiana in June. To get the 4-time All-Star, OKC had to part ways with Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Then just this month, Presti pulled off the seemingly impossible. Carmelo Anthony waived his no-trade clause and agreed to be sent to Oklahoma. In return for Anthony’s services, the Thunder sent Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks. Again, OKC had to part with a solid rotation big and wingman for this deal. Considering Anthony’s credentials though this was more than acceptable for Thunder management.
Sam Presti's offseason:
* Trade Oladipo, Sabonas for Paul George
* Trade Kanter, McDermott for Melo
* Extend the MVP for 5 years
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 29, 2017
Positioning Westbrook and OKC for greatness?
Make no mistake about it, OKC still can’t stand toe-to-toe with the Warriors. With that said, the team is definitely better with its new Big 3. One of the team’s issues last season was an offense that was prone to stagnation. A large chunk of the team’s possessions were dominated by Russell Westbrook. Without any other potent offensive threat, opposing teams had an easier time game-planning against the Thunder. Teams simply clamped down on Westbrook’s teammates and let him win games by himself.
Paul George is feeling good about his new team. pic.twitter.com/Ly4RYvkYxW
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 25, 2017
With Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, defenses are going to be much more honest. George is a threat on the wings in offense and a top-5 defender on the other end of the floor. In small-ball lineups, Carmelo Anthony is going to be a handful for any power-forward. Other than stretching the defense with his range, he can also attack with drives or post-ups.
Russell Westbrook made the right decision
There’s no arguing Russell Westbrook did the right thing in signing the $205 million extension. Financially, he wasn’t going to get better offers from other teams when he hits free agency. More importantly though, his signing would allow the team to focus on retaining its new All Stars. Both George and Anthony will hit free agency after the 2018-19 season. Depending on how they perform this season, they could find themselves up for extensions of their own. At the very least, OKC would go after George considering he’d still be in his prime (29) by that time.
Now all OKC needs is to beef up its bench. Enes Kanter’s loss will obviously impact the second unit’s offensive production. Kyle Singler can be expected to put up quality minutes while Alex Abrines had a strong showing in his rookie season. However, the Thunder will need more from their bench if they want to be competitive. Even though OKC has its own Big 3 led by Russell Westbrook, this simply won’t be enough.