Westbrook on the move?
WITH the departure of his co-star Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, enigmatic Russell Westbrook, whose stats-padding ways has produced a triple-double average in points, rebounds and assists for an NBA record-setting three straight seasons, welcomes a trade by the Oklahoma City Thunder, his employer for his first 11 seasons in the league.
If so, the 6-foot-3 point guard likes a relocation to the Miami Heat, which earlier secured ex-Philadelphia 76ers All-Star guard Jimmy Butler in a four-team sign-and-trade at the start of free agency.
The Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons also are interested in the services of the 30-year-old Westbrook, who was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2016-17 when he became the second player in league annals to average a triple-double for a single season after “The Big O” Oscar Robertson’s 1961-62 feat with the Cincinnati Royals, the predecessors of the Sacramento Kings, while also coming up with an all-time high of 42 T-D games, one more than The Big O’s previous single-season league mark.
In 2018-19, Westbrook normed 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and a league-leading 10.7 assists in 73 appearances with OKC. He topped the majors in assists for a second consecutive season.
Along the way, Westbrook posted 11 straight games with a triple-double (the last on Valentine’s Day in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans), eclipsing the old mark of nine that the late Wilt Chamberlain recorded in 1968. He chalked up 20 points, 20 rebounds and 21 assists during a 119-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on April 2, 2019 to become only the second player in NBA history to register a 20-20-20 triple-double in a single game, the other one coming from Chamberlain again when the
7-foot-1 mastodon had 22 points, 21 assists and 25 rebounds in a 131-121 home win by the Philadelphia 76ers over the Detroit Pistons on February 2, 1968.
Westbrook has four years and $170 million remaining on his Thunder contract. He owns a player option for $46.7 million in 2022-23.
This is part of Westbrook’s six-year, $233.5 million pact, including a five-year extension that he inked with the Thunder in late September 2017. The UCLA alum had a year, $28.5 million left on his previous contract and the extension only took effect in 2018-19.
Under NBA rules, Westbrook was eligible for a super maximum contract extension in the summer of 2017 — an additional five years worth $205 million that remains as the richest extension in NBA history to date, surpassing the four-year, $169.2-million supermax extension that Houston’s James Harden signed in July of the same year.
Harden, at 10 years of experience (one less than Westbrook), had two years and $59 million remaining on his contract before the consummation of the four-year extension, which will only kick off in the upcoming 2019-20 season. Add it up, Harden owned a six-year, $228.2 million pact in July 2017.
Both Westbrook and Harden qualified for the Designated Player Veteran Exception (to secure a super maximum contract) under the seven-year collective bargaining agreement struck between the NBA and its players’ union that took effect in 2017-18. A player qualifies for the DPVE if he has been the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or made one of three All-NBA teams the previous season or has been All-NBA/DPOY in two of the three previous seasons, or league MVP once in the previous season.
Such a player can receive a supermax deal only from a team that drafted him or traded for him during his first four seasons. The maximum amount allowable for a DPVE also depends on the player’s years of service in the NBA. Each team can have a pair of DPVE players and their contracts can amount to a starting salary of as much as 35 percent of a team’s salary cap.
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