The league is still feeling the ripples of Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City. They have even reached San Antonio, as it appears there have been some preliminary trade talks about a Kawhi Leonard-for-Russell Westbrook swap. Those talks predictable went nowhere, as Leonard arguably has the best contract in the league and Westbrook is an impending free agent. We don’t even have to get into questions about talent and value, really. That’s reason enough to make that trade impossible to fathom.[restrict]
Now that the possibility of Westbrook wearing Silver and Black exists outside of the minds of the most optimistic fans of both the Spurs and the explosive guard, however, it’s hard to stop thinking about it. As the transition from the Tim Duncan era begins and superteams start forming, the idea of one of the best players in the league finding his way to San Antonio really becomes intoxicating. Yet it’s hard to imagine it happening, and not for a lack of trying.
There’s just no way the Spurs put together the best package for Westbrook without including Leonard, unless Westbrook says that he will only sign an extension with the Spurs — something he has no reason whatsoever to do. If Kawhi is not on the table, all San Antonio has to offer is an aging star in LaMarcus Aldridge, a mediocre starting point guard, a few good role players and a draft pick that will be among the last in the first round. Even if Sam Presti is sure that he’s going to lose him in free agency, he can get more in return from the Celtics or a number of other teams that have assets to spare.
That means the only realistic way the Spurs could land Westbrook would be in free agency next season. The problem is that San Antonio won’t have cap room to offer a max deal without making some moves that would involve losing talent. If Pau Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon opt in, they will have around eight million in cap space, so not even salary-dumping Tony Parker would be enough. If they don’t opt in, Pau would have to be renounced, along with Ginobili and Patty Mills, to fit a max deal for Westbrook.
Even if it means making sacrifices, the Spurs could find a way to fit Westbrook under the cap. That doesn’t mean he’d choose them, unfortunately. In his first real opportunity to pick a franchise after spending his first eight years in a small market, change would be enticing.
Westbrook is from Los Angeles and played college ball at UCLA. He could decide to go back home. It’s hard to imagine him signing with a non-contender like the Lakers, but there’s another franchise there. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will likely enter free agency next season and if Westbrook hints that he wants to sign with the Clippers, Doc Rivers could let the older Paul go and replace him with another All-NBA point guard. [/restrict]