The Thunder officially look to be in rebuilding mode after trading Paul George to the Clippers, who also landed Kawhi Leonard. Oklahoma City also parted ways with forward Jerami Grant by trading him to the Nuggets for a draft pick. All of these moves have left us wondering what is next for Russell Westbrook?
Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post's Ben Golliver discuss the Thunder’s decision to trade George and what it means for Westbrook’s future on the Open Floor podcast.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben Golliver: So we're starting to see a few trickle tweets about possible Russell Westbrook trades by Oklahoma City. Would you be interested in a Russell Westbrook for John Wall plus draft picks exchange? Are you ready to sign up for the Russell Westbrook supermax contract experience?
Andrew Sharp: Well, you're talking to like one of the handful of franchises who enthusiastically would say yes because Russ and Beal would be great. Oh, we can work it out.
Golliver: I don't know if great is the word you are looking for. Laughs
Sharp: Russ is gonna take heat here that, again, I'm not sure is like 100% deserved.
Golliver: Well, what's his defense? Because I think that the heat would come from the idea that he couldn't really make it work with Kevin [Durant]. Kevin saw greener pastures and probably wondered if they were ever gonna be able to get over the hump together. He steps up and turns in a phenomenal MVP campaign. I'm not sure he was deserving of the MVP. Guys like you voted for him but that's fine. That's under the rug. But they take a big step back in the playoffs. He gets the ultimate sand trap safe with Paul George coming in but they can't turn it into winning, and I think his regression here athletically and from an efficiency standpoint is a major contributor why now he loses Paul George in a deal. And I think frankly you have to look at it as their front office just no longer being willing to bet that partnership could do it. Otherwise you don't trade Paul George. Basically no matter the cost. Like we said earlier about painting yourself into a corner that feels a lot like a vote of no confidence.
Sharp: Yeah, and perhaps it is but I also think we should probably wait to find out exactly how this happened and and how much of it was Paul George being unhappy over the last few weeks and how much of it was Kawhi Leonard picking up the phone and saying, "Look, we have a spot open for you in L.A., let's go run the league together." And George doing the calculus himself and saying, "I will have a better shot at winning, I will be in L.A. where I wanted to be all along, and this is a win on a lot of different fronts and it's less about I'm tired of playing with Russell Westbrook," which I think for Durant it was.
With Paul George, it may be a little bit more complicated, but you're right to point out that Russell Westbrook's athleticism isn't the same. His game is more limited now than it was even a couple of years ago. We saw that in the playoffs. It was actually pretty hard to watch at times. I mean he was really, really limited and…
Golliver: We're getting tweets from Kevin Love saying Russ is going to average 36, 13 and 11. Nope. No, he's not.
Sharp: Yeah, well he kind of did that a couple of years ago and he's not the same player.
Golliver: That's what I'm saying. He's not that guy anymore, and so he may try but I don't see that going well for them at all.
Sharp: And I don't blame any superstar who looks at what's coming with Russ. Look, who knows what Paul George said or didn't say. But if that's the calculation he was doing, I get it. But again, I think that if you want to kill Russ and say his flaws have been his undoing and have been OKC's undoing, that story starts with KD and he was able to actually salvage the Paul George stuff more than anyone would have expected.