In a colossal move that will have a major impact across the NBA for the foreseeable future, Kevin Durant has decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors. There he will join a team that has gone to two straight NBA Finals and consists of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Warriors have a legitimate shot to not only win multiple titles, but to break their own regular season wins record of 73.
What’s lost in all this is what the Thunder should do with their remaining star, Russell Westbrook. Not only should the Thunder consider trading him, but they should find a willing partner in the Boston Celtics.
Westbrook would provide the Celtics with an immediate elite NBA player and scorer. Besides Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics lack a player who can score consistently and in crunch time. That weakness would evaporate with the addition of Westbrook, who has averaged just under 24.5 points per game over the last three seasons. Include his 6.9 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game over the last three seasons, and you have the most impactful player to wear green and white since Kevin Garnett came to Boston in the summer of 2007.
Danny Ainge has the necessary assets to make this move, which makes it more than a mere pipe dream. In order to pry Westbrook from Oklahoma City, the Celtics can offer their rights to the Brooklyn Nets picks in 2017 and 2018, which are both likely to be in the top five. They also have a host of other young assets from Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Avery Bradley as well as their two other first round picks from 2016, Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic.
Boston also has the money to sign Westbrook to a max deal, but this is both the double edged sword of the equation. At 27 years old, Westbrook is rumored to be leaving Oklahoma City after this season no matter what to play in a big market. The two teams that have been linked with Westbrook at the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Because he is already considering leaving after this season, this should make the Thunder and GM Sam Presti more willing to trade him to accelerate the impending rebuild. However, the Celtics would need to be able to convince the Long Beach, CA native to stay in Boston for more than one season instead of going home to play for the Lakers or to New York to play the Knicks. If they can’t do that, the trade won’t be worth it.
If Boston can convince Westbrook to stay more than one season and not have to give up all of the assets listed above (I.E. both remaining Brooklyn picks) the trade is a no-brainer. If they can convince him to stay long term but have to give up both picks, the deal is still worth it. The only reason for Boston to back off is if they come to the realization that Westbrook would only call TD Garden home for one season.
The price in assets and money to get Westbrook would be enormous, but pairing him with the recently signed Al Horford could give the Celtics a team that can make multiple NBA Finals. While the Warriors have the potential to be an all-time team, bringing in Westbrook would give the Celtics a real opportunity to contend for championships for the next 7-8 seasons. Also, with Horford signed for four years, the Celtics would have another max contract slot open up in 2020, when Westbrook would still have a few prime years left at age 31.
The Celtics have not been afraid to make major splashes in order to better themselves, whether it be the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Garnett to trading Garnett and lifelong Celtic Paul Pierce away or the stunning hire of Brad Stevens, Boston’s aggressiveness has been a hallmark of their philosophy since Danny Ainge became GM. Right now, they find themselves in an enviable position. One of the top five players in the world might be becoming available and they have the tools in place to land him.