LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook’s 11-year run in Oklahoma City could be coming to a close as the Thunder shift into rebuilding mode.
The latest move from Thunder general manager Sam Presti came Monday, when forward Jerami Grant was traded to the Denver Nuggets for a 2020 first-round pick.
Moving Grant saves the Thunder $39 million, according to ESPN.
Grant, 25, averaged 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 80 games (77 starts) for the Thunder last season.
On the heels of sending 2019 MVP finalist Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for five future first-round picks and Danilo Gallinari and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Presti opened talks with Westbrook and his representatives regarding the 30-year-old All Star’s future with the franchise.
The Thunder received three unprotected first-round picks from the Clippers — 2022, 2024 and 2026 — and two future Miami Heat first-round picks: a 2021 unprotected selection and the 2023 lottery protected pick.
Westbrook has four years and $170 million left on his contract. The Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and others are expected to have high interest in acquiring Westbrook, per ESPN.
Westbrook, an 11-year veteran, has spent his entire career in Oklahoma City, averaging 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists. He won the 2017 NBA MVP Award.
George shunned the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency last July to re-sign with the Thunder and form a 1-2 punch with Westbrook.
If the Rockets can find the right combination of draft compensation and contracts, a Westbrook deal to Houston would reunite former Thunder teammates. The Rockets acquired James Harden, a sixth man in Oklahoma City on a team fronted by Kevin Durant and Westbrook, prior to the 2012-13 season after the Thunder opted not to offer Harden a maximum contract.
Among complications to resolve before that trade could be completed is the contract of Chris Paul, who is due $38.5 million for next season and has three years remaining on his contract.
Minnesota was in hot pursuit of D’Angelo Russell before the Nets sent him to the Golden State Warriors via sign-and-trade.
The Knicks have trade assets that would seem to meet Oklahoma City’s rebuild. However, RJ Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft, could not be part of any trade until Dec. 15. — Reuters