Russell Westbrook has spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now, it looks as if he’ll spend at least the next three years in OKC, as well.
Westbrook will sign a three year extension worth over $85 million, according to ESPN. Westbrook also has the ability to opt out after the second year of the deal. It’ll be a big raise for Westbrook, who’s contract was set to run out after this year. He’ll now make $26.5 million this year, rather than the $17.8 million he would have made before the extension. In the second and third years of the deal, he’ll make the max.
There’s been speculation that Westbrook might leave Oklahoma City after this season. His long time teammate, Kevin Durant, signed with the Golden State Warriors this off-season, and the team traded away veteran forward Serge Ibaka on draft night. However, Westbrook will now be the full time go to guy for the first time in his career. He’ll be the first scoring option on a team that nearly made the NBA Finals last season.
This is a major win for the Thunder, who were on the verge of losing Durant and Westbrook in consecutive years. That would have caused a major rebuild, but now the team will build around Westbrook.
Westbrook had a career year last season. He averaged 23.5 points per game, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. Beyond that, he had a league leading 18 triple-doubles, which is tied for the most in the last 50 years. The year before, in a season where Durant missed significant time because of injuries, Westbrook averaged 28.1 points, 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds.
There’s no doubt that Westbrook is one of the most athletic players in the NBA. His offensive ferocity and defensive prowess makes him one of the most unguardable and dangerous players in league history. But he is now the absolute number one guy. Defenses will be able to center their game plan around him. Will he thrive being the first option, or will the absence of Kevin Durant cause the five time all star to fold?