Russell Westbrook just signed the largest contract in NBA history. The Oklahoma City Thunder gave Westbrook a whopping $205 million over 5 years. While it may seem like a ridiculous amount of money to give a player, it’s hard to deny Russell Westbrook’s production for this team. His triple-double average and a 32-9 record in games when he had a triple-double speak for themselves. Oh, and there’s that whole MVP thing.
Westbrook certainly doesn’t have any money problems after signing this deal, but the amount of money isn’t what’s really important here. By signing this 5 year extension, Russell Westbrook has let everyone know that he’s here to stay, and he’s ready to bring a championship to OKC. At 28 years old, Westbrook is in the prime of his career. He’s the star and leader of this Thunder team.
Some could argue that Westbrook’s massive contract will be bad for the team, which is a very valid concern, but there’s also a positive side to this. OKC recently acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. While both of these players are currently on the OKC roster, it’s likely both of them could end up on different teams after this season. Westbrook choosing to sign an extension for the foreseeable future only increases the chances of both PG-13 and Melo staying in OKC for the foreseeable future also.
While signing both of these stars to contracts could be difficult, it may be a lot easier than you would think. We’ve seen plenty of players take less money to play with great players and potentially win championships. Kevin Durant is a more recent example of this. Durant could have taken more money somewhere else, but he took less to keep the Warriors core together.
Paul George has been rumored to be looking to move to L.A. to play with the Lakers. He could easily make a move to L.A. and get more money than he could in OKC, but let’s be real, would you rather play with the league’s reigning MVP or Lonzo Ball? If I’m Paul George, I’m taking the MVP. Paul George could end up playing with LeBron James in L.A., but it’s no sure thing that LeBron will join the Lakers. Westbrook being with the Thunder is a sure thing.
Carmelo Anthony could probably get some more money somewhere else, but I can’t really see him wanting to go to many other places. Regardless of where he goes, he doesn’t really deserve the huge contracts he’s had in the past. At this point in his career, Carmelo Anthony should be seeking a championship rather than money. Being in OKC with Westbrook and George looks like a pretty good place to compete for a championship.
The starting line up for the Thunder consists of Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams. Things may not click with them right away, but imagine how good that line up could be further into the season, or even a couple years down the road.
The OKC bench may be a weakness. Enes Kanter was one of their best bench players last season, but he’s no longer with the team. When Westbrook wasn’t on the floor last year, OKC had all sorts of troubles playing at a high level. That should change with the new big three. This team can now have a star on the floor at all times. Having a go to guy on the floor at all times will help the bench players, as well as the team as a whole to play at a higher level more consistently.
If Paul George and Carmelo Anthony choose to stay in OKC long term, the bench will get better. Having superstars like that attracts free agents. We’ve seen players take less money to play for a real championship contender, and I don’t think that would be any different with this team.
There are still a lot of unknowns in the Thunder’s future, but signing Westbrook long term is a great to start to getting that future off on the right foot. Getting Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to stay started with Westbrook. That part is done. I think the next step is having a deep playoff run. I don’t think it will necessarily take a championship for them to stay, but if they can see the potential to win one, it will convince them to be there long term.