In the aftermath of Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook’s future with the Oklahoma City Thunder has been left hanging in the balance. The consensus seems to be that Westbrook will either be traded by the team or eventually leave in NBA free agency.
The one team that has consistently been linked to Westbrook since Durant’s departure from the Thunder is the Los Angeles Lakers. The storied franchise is desperately seeking a new superstar to replace Kobe Bryant, and Westbrook fits the bill.
With the Lakers having quite a few promising young assets, a blockbuster trade involving a package of these players makes sense. Oklahoma City may be intrigued at the prospect of acquiring D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and/or Brandon Ingram in a deal, but ESPN’s Chris Broussard claims the team is confident they will sign him in free agency (transcription via Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report):
“The Lakers think they can sign (Westbrook),” Broussard said. “I was talking to some people, some executives yesterday about possible trades they might do, or offer, and I was told they think they can sign him as a free agent. So, why should they give up anything?”
The Lakers headed into the free agency period this summer with high hopes of landing a big name or two. Los Angeles was armed with $60 million in cap space and determined to upgrade the roster, but fell short and had to go with secondary options in Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov.
With the Lakers struggling to convince top-tier free agents to sign over the last few years, there’s no guarantee Westbrook will head to or even consider Los Angeles when the time comes. Westbrook will become an unrestricted free agent next summer and will be the most sought-after player on the open market with plenty of teams expected to pursue him.
Pending any trades the Lakers may make throughout the upcoming NBA season, Los Angeles will have the cap space to go after Westbrook. Despite having the means to sign arguably one of the best guards in the league, Westbrook’s preference and intentions heading into free agency remain unknown.