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The Pros and (Many) Cons of Trading for Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook wants out of Houston, but he doesn't make sense for Sacramento.

It's not every day that a 32-year old former MVP becomes available. Especially one that is still producing at a high, though inefficient, level. But that's where we're at with Russell Westbrook. After one season in Houston, Russ wants out.

The Athletic followed that report with a lengthy exploration on the dysfunction in Houston. It goes far beyond Westbrook.

Before we get to the reasons why it doesn't make sense for the Kings to chase Westbrook, let's first look at what Westbrook still brings to the table. This past season Westbrook averaged 27.2 points per game, 6 points more than Kings leader De'Aaron Fox. He gets to the free throw line 6.7 times per game, tied with Kings leader De'Aaron Fox. He averaged 7 assists per game, slightly ahead of Fox and double that of any other Kings player. His 7.9 rebounds per game is behind Kings leader Richaun Holmes (8.1) but ahead of every other King. His 1.6 steals would lead the Kings as well.

There are many reasons not to trade for Westbrook, and we'll get into them, but make no mistake: Russell Westbrook would be the best player on the Sacramento Kings if they acquired him.

The first issue, and the biggest issue, is Westbrook's contract. Westbrook will earn $41 million this season, $44 million the next season, an has a player option for $47 million the year after that. Westbrook is a great player, but has an insane contract. Salary matching for the Kings would be easy. The Kings could send Cory Joseph plus either Harrison Barnes or Buddy Hield. Send two of the team's three worst deals and the math works. But that highlights just how much Russ makes.

The second issue is fit. Adding Russ would raise immediate questions of how he fits next to De'Aaron Fox. Westbrook is a high usage player who has the ball in his hands most of the time. He was less effective in Houston because he was sharing the ball with Harden, but it's hard to see Westbrook deferring to a younger, less accomplished player like Fox.

The other red flag is Westbrook's efficiency, or lack thereof. Russ shoots 25% from 3, but shoots from 3 as often as Harrison Barnes did last season. Russ shots 47% overall from the field, which would place him just below Fox but ahead of Barnes, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Buddy Hield, so it isn't that he can't score well overall, it's just that Westbrook takes shots with no regard to how good those shots are. His efficiency at the rim gets offset by his inefficiencies elsewhere.

The final concern is team direction. What kind of team is Monte McNair building? Does adding Westbrook take the Kings towards long-term relevancy? Chasing an over-30 talent upgrade who doesn't pair well with Fox feels like a Vlade-esque move that views the 8th seed as a finish line instead of a first step.

To be clear, there's no indication at this time that the Kings are pursuing Westbrook. The closest connection is that McNair came from Houston, where Westbrook spent last year. That's it. The Kings front office has been quiet since taking over, so there's no reason to think the Kings will chase this.

However, McNair has talked about having flexibility to take a big swing when the opportunity presents itself. This would definitely qualify as a big swing. If it did happen, it could also mean a domino effect of other moves. I don't see that as likely, but this is the Kings. Stranger things have happened.

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NBALensface
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November 12, 2020 10:11 am

remember his GW against the Kings at G1C? As an aside, I don’t think it’s a good idea for the Kings to put themselves in position to be paying a 34yo, off-the-cliff Westbrook 40+ mil… even if it costs very little.

Throwback #Lensface < 3min. Please enjoy!

(edit – proud of getting this show done, given what I was fighting through. That said, what a snore-fest. Glad for growth)

Last edited 1 year ago by Kimani Okearah
ScottyPop
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November 12, 2020 10:17 am
Reply to  ScottyPop

Oops, guess that didn’t work.

I really dislike Russell Westbrook. If he ended up on the Kings I wouldn’t be watching them anymore.

RORDOG
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November 12, 2020 10:23 am

🤔from Kevin Arnovitz in The Madness of Kings in 2017:

One league insider says Ranadive told him some months back that he aspires to assemble a big three in Sacramento, with Russell Westbrook joining Cousins and Rudy Gay.

(I don’t actually think there’s interest, but I have no doubt Vivek’s ears perked up when he heard Westbrook was available.)

TheGrantNapear
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November 12, 2020 2:18 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Super Team just empty stats!

Kingsguru21
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November 12, 2020 10:24 am

Eh, pass.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
November 12, 2020 10:24 am

Just send him to the Knicks. It’s were aging, high usage, former MVP caliber players go to die.

andy_sims
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November 12, 2020 10:24 am

Two things:

Having Westbrook would completely stunt Fox’s growth.

It’s just too damned much money.

Three years ago with Cousins & Gay? Sure, you take a hard look at that. Now? It isn’t what the organization needs.

Kingsguru21
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November 12, 2020 10:34 am
Reply to  andy_sims

That Westbrook wasn’t available anyway. That’s why these conversations often end up becoming moot.

BrocknessMonster
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November 12, 2020 10:45 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Getting Cousins and Gay back along with acquiring Westbrook would be the all timer in Kangz history. I can’t see McNair would want Westbrook. It would hamper anything he wants to do in the next 3 years.

TheGrantNapear
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November 12, 2020 2:19 pm

I’d be on board with that for the comedy factor. Never put that past Vivek.

RobHessing
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November 12, 2020 10:46 am

If you watch Westbrook for any appreciable amount of time, you easily notice that he is one of the hardest working players in the NBA from baseline to baseline. I’m not sure if there is a list of players that put it all out on the floor more than Russ, but if there is such a list, it’s a very small one.

With that said, he is not anywhere near the right fit for where this organization is right now. This is a team that should be in the mode of acquiring draft assets, young players with upside, flexible/moveable contracts, and cap space. Though Westbrook would become the best player that the Kings have had in over 15 years, he just does not check any of the team’s current boxes of what they should be focused on.

BestHyperboleEver
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November 12, 2020 10:54 am
Reply to  RobHessing

The upside is you get a bit more ratings interest and maybe make the back end of the playoff picture. The downside is you hamstring your build from both a player development and payroll standpoint, capping your ceiling at 8th seed contention.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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November 12, 2020 11:38 am

I also think Westbrook has a ton of miles on those legs that give him his next level athleticism. Not to insult Westbrook, but I see him taking an eventual Steve Francis level of decline once he loses a step ot two.

Kingsguru21
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November 12, 2020 11:38 am

The 8th seed would be a huge improvement over the status quo, though. You don’t have to stop improving at Westbrook, although acquiring him would be a humungous task to add the talent you’d need to pull it off.

Kingsguru21
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November 12, 2020 12:13 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

TBH, I’m not sure the Kings really need to acquire cap space. They need better asset valuation. Cap space isn’t worth anything if you don’t have players buying into your vision which non premiere players rebuffed the Kings a few times during the Vlade era. Harrison Barnes was traded for, and re-signed for a big deal which set him up for life. (And he was probably close before.)

I think the biggest single improvement the Kings can have next season is……having De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley on the court for AT LEAST 3800 minutes combined. Harrison Barnes was a bit under 2500 in 72 games. Bagley and Fox combined for….a tad under 2000 minutes.

Availability is the best ability, you need your 2 best talents to be playing the most minutes and at worst in the top 4. Neither was the case last season. Bogdan missed 10 games last year, too, let’s not forget.

Fox was 6th in total minutes behind Barnes, Hield, Bjelica, Bogi and Joseph. Bagley was 13th. That needs to be 1-2. Barnes, Hield and Bogdanovich can be in the top 5, but you need those top 2 guys on the court for as many minutes as humanly possible to be successful. That’s exactly the reason the Kings should at least consider Westbrook. Whatever you say about the guy, he’s on the court A LOT. I, too, think he’s the wrong fit at this time for an organization in flux in many ways, but putting the cart before the horse is one of the dumb things they did during Vlade’s tenure.

An example? Picking Papagiannis was a mistake, but not a colossal failure. Not taking Adebayo or Mitchell was a colossal failure in 2017. (I’m ignoring 2018 atm because I don’t think the Bagley/Doncic story is fully written out yet.) You don’t cash in on your premium asset opportunities, everything else sucks hind tit. I’m confident Monte McNair understands this. What I’m not confident in is when the Kings will get those kinds of opportunities again. And I’m far less confident Westy is that opportunity.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
RobHessing
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November 12, 2020 12:31 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

For me, cap space = flexibility. The flexibility to take on an onerous expiring contract with draft picks and/or a young, inexpensive player, for example.

I agree with what you are saying here, with the caveat that I do believe that cap space is indeed a valuable asset for a rebuilding (or even re-tooling) team.

Kingsguru21
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November 12, 2020 2:42 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

I agree flexibility is important. And I agree cap space is important, too. It’s a tool, and used well is valuable.

Let me ask this before I continue: What DO YOU THINK are the chances that McNair can actually utilize this tool well? To me that story will get told over the next few years. The proof will be in the pudding on that one.

So, I was under an incorrect impression (huge shocker there) that the Kings were farther under the cap than they actually are once you factor in Bogi’s cap hold and Parker opting into his deal. (I’m assuming that’s a given but maybe the Kings will get lucky. I highly doubt it, though.) By my count if you include Bogi’s cap hold, the 12th pick, add in Bjelly and Parker that’s 11 players on the roster. With Harry Giles still on the roster at his cap hold, too. My number count has the cap total salary at 120,998,507$$ with all of those conditions.

But, if you stretch Parker, don’t pick up Bjelly’s option and renounce the rights to Giles, Len and Bazemore should get you about a million under the cap line. After calculating the numbers and factoring in roster charges (to get the roster to 12), the Kings cap number after doing all this would be 107,335,283$$. Which is about 1.8 million. (For you know it all’s, that’s the guaranteed salaries, Parker’s stretched salary at 2.166 million, two roster charges (about 900K apiece), and the 12th overall pick. And of course, the Serbian jack of all trades master of none in the room, Bogi’s cap hold, not his QO number.) Just enough to get the Kings under the cap while doing a S&T for Bogi, if they so desire.

My point here is, there IS flexibility. And you have the options of how to use it, provided you are willing to not sign a player with the mid level exception or room exception (Richaun Holmes).

Smart teams know this, but under Vlade the Kings didn’t operate that way IMO. This is some years ago in 2014, but McNair WAS part of the Houston FO that offered up Chandler Parsons a 2nd round pick a 4 year deal then declined the final year to give him a QO. (I’m still shocked Houston was allowed to do that.)

My point is I do think McNair is likely to have this kind of idea in mind. Which includes not doing anything outrageous this offseason to make moves that don’t need to be made. (Like firing Luke Walton.) But the problem is other teams have smart FO’s, too, and they aren’t going to take Parker for free in all likelihood. How smart is it for the Kings to use, say, the 12th pick to move Parker’s salary out the door? Or, better, Cory Joseph? That probably depends on how valuable you think the 12th pick is, I would suspect.

I don’t see the point in blowing up this roster just for an extra 15 million in cap space. I could see the argument on using the 12th pick to shed a large salary like Cory Joseph so you could prioritize your roster better with your players that are more valuable and weren’t signed on an inflated curve like Joseph was. Yes, losing the 12th pick might lose a rotation player, but short of a Giannis Antetokounmpo is it that big of a risk? I get dreaming about the draft is fun around here, but how valuable is it to you getting towards your end goals?

I’d like to see McNair maximize the value of his asset’s that he has above all else. With a roster having so much bloat on the bottom of the rotation and a big increase coming due on your most valuable player, it would be nice to see how the Kings do with maximizing what they have instead of trying to beg Wesley Matthews to come to the River City. I mean, that’s arguably more boneheaded than thinking Derek Smith will be a superstar for you.

You know, smart and competent. I heard it’s still in style. But it’s probably just a rumor in the same vein as the rest of them so who knows?

I’ll keep saying it, but this upcoming season won’t come down to what McNair does this offseason IMO. It’ll come down to how many minutes Fox and Bagley play. It’s a pretty simple equation, that.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
RobHessing
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November 12, 2020 4:21 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

I think we agree? All I said is that cap space is a good thing for a team that is rebuilding / re-tooling, and that Westbrook does not fit the mold for that (and other noted) reason(s).

Kingsguru21
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November 12, 2020 8:24 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

I think we agree in theory, but not in this particular application in regards to where the Kings are at.

Wonderchild
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November 12, 2020 10:49 am

Not sure I want to deal with such a polarizing player in Westbrook, especially with this Kings team. He’s similar to Cousins in that regard. One play he forces a steal and leads the fast break for a dunk and the next play he forces a pass that goes 3 rows into the stands.

Peja
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November 12, 2020 11:00 am

Avoid Westbrook at all costs if you are the kings. You need to be in contention to go for an aging star.

Would be interesting to see the Nuggets make a run at either Westbrook or Harden. They have the assets and picks to form a big 3 of Jokic, Murray, and either Harden or Westbrook. I don’t know if its a great idea for them but it was the first team that popped into my head that can actually make this possible and have it make some sense.

Tunel_21
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November 12, 2020 3:43 pm
Reply to  Peja

I’m hoping for a Knicks trade for Westbrook. No particular basketball reason, I just think it would be funny to watch him bicker with James Dolan.

Murf
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November 12, 2020 11:23 am

I can see the Kings trading for him, then the next day, he blows out his achillles, there by torpedoing his value as he is an amazing athlete who relies on his athleticism to get by, and the Kings would be on the hook for his 40M + a year

furious.d
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November 12, 2020 11:30 am

If the Rockets are looking to shed salary / get younger, I’d consider a trade centered on sending the 12th pick for Robert Covington. I know a lot of people exclusively want this team to stack up draft assets to build for the future, but #12 really isn’t that valuable. Whether you look at the history of actual #12 picks or the 12th best player in each draft, they’re pretty much all worse than RoCo. Your chances of pulling out an all star there are statistically incredibly low, while your chances of getting a Jimmer / Ben / Nik / PapaG are much higher.

He’d make it a lot easier to justify minutes for our negative defenders in Buddy and Bagley, since he can guard the opposition’s most dynamic player 2-4. He’s also on a very cheap deal (cheap enough that we can absorb him into cap space), and you don’t waste 3 years of Fox’s early prime developing him like you would a 19-20 year old draft pick.

It’s a gamble for sure, but one I’d consider.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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November 12, 2020 11:46 am
Reply to  furious.d

If Houston really is looking to shed salary, I don’t think it would take the #12 to get Robert Covington. You could just send them Nemanja’s unguaranteed deal or a couple of 2nd rounders. He is definitely not worth the #12

furious.d
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November 12, 2020 12:50 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Yeah, I don’t think we have any chance of getting RoCo for 2nds. While Houston may be motivated to decrease payroll, RoCo is on a positive value deal, so any team with cap space and a late first would be happy to grab him.

RORDOG
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November 12, 2020 1:03 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

We have no idea if the Kings will be able to trade Bjelly’s contract before they’re required to make a decision to fully guarantee the contract for next year. If that date is before the transaction moratorium is officially lifted, then his salary would count. We do know that the moratorium will be lifted sometime before the draft, but nothing specific

Kingsguru21
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November 12, 2020 11:46 am
Reply to  furious.d

What do you think the odds are that the Rockets can get a better deal than that for Covington?

It’s certainly worth considering, that’s for sure.

andy_sims
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November 12, 2020 11:48 am
Reply to  furious.d

Unless Harden gets traded, there’s no way Houston will consider giving up Covington, and maybe not even then. Covington cost them Capela and a first-rounder, and they’re not going to give up one of the best defenders in the league, for #12, and maybe not even if you throw in Hield.

Covington is a guy who can improve any team that has him on the roster. There’s just no way they cut bait on him without getting a player back who isn’t an immediate difference-maker.

Adamsite
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November 12, 2020 12:29 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

I think you are way overvaluing Covington. He’s about to turn 30 and had a pretty terrible stint in Houston. That trade they made was more about cutting salary. They sent out Capela, Nene, Green to open up over $10M in space.

Covington is good, but he is not worth a lottery pick. Also remember, the Suns sent a pick with TJ Warren to get rid of his deal. If Houston is that desperate to cut salary, they aren’t going to get too much for Covington.

furious.d
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November 12, 2020 12:39 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Yeah, I don’t really know what it would take to interest the Rockets. If not the 12th, what number pick do you think they’d have to consider? It seems close enough to me that we could find sweetener to get it done (eg. we have a ton of 2nds and maybe we take back some bad salary for a late first from a third team).

Obviously they recognize they aren’t a championship team as constructed and their options are limited by the fact that Westbrook, Harden and Gordon eat up 90% of the cap through 2023. Add in the fact that the owner seems to be in a desperate position financially and it might make sense to move Westbrook now for an overpaid expiring (eg. Lowry) and clear as much non-Harden salary as possible for a 2021 re-load, when multiple franchise players are available and several more second-tier all stars.

Purely as a trade asset, if the Rockets don’t think they can win next season, RoCo is worth more now with two cheap years left than he would be next year as a 1 year rental.

CoreyBrewersD
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November 12, 2020 3:41 pm
Reply to  furious.d

RoCo is going to be highly sought after by contenders. He is in the mold of Iggy and the things those type of guys do shows in W/L column not Sports Center There will be a real market for that guy and if you can get him for a 12 I bet you could flip him for something better. Kuzma, Looney Paschall, think #5-7 guy on contending teams.

eurostep
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November 12, 2020 11:47 am

I’m on the fence about acquiring Westbrook. McNair said during his introductory press conference about establishing a culture where the team plays hard. Westbrook fits that culture, the guy is relentless and his hustle and tenacity forces the other 4 players to play just as hard. If the Kings are going to compete for a playoff spot they have to acquire an all star, I’m just not sure if it’s Westbrook.

andy_sims
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November 12, 2020 12:13 pm
Reply to  eurostep

A lot of players will tell you that they never have to work harder than when Westbrook is on the floor with them…

SierraSpartan
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November 12, 2020 12:09 pm

I can’t even begin to calculate how much downside there is to this potential deal.

Tracy Morgan No.gif
Last edited 1 year ago by SierraSpartan
KingME
November 12, 2020 12:10 pm

I’m good off Russ. But I’ll take Dipo 💯

1951
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November 12, 2020 12:33 pm

Throw in Harden as a sweetener and we have a deal.

RikSmits
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November 12, 2020 12:54 pm

I’d like to see him traded to the Nets or Clips, just for the fun of these reunions.

Adamsite
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November 12, 2020 1:43 pm

OT: I floated the Buddy and #12 for Gordon and the #15 a few weeks back in the trade idea thread. I’d still do it, but I think the Magic want to get “more” into the lottery than #12.

ATL might be wise to offer the #6 for Gordon and #15

Last edited 1 year ago by Adamsite
Hobby916
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November 13, 2020 5:13 am
Reply to  Adamsite

For some reason I still have this idea in my head that Gordon can become an really good player. Not sure why, but I think the trade you mentioned is a start, maybe the Kings add something else to make that happen?

Tunel_21
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November 12, 2020 3:28 pm

No.

That being said, I would be ecstatic to hop on a three team trade and get some draft assets or intriguing young players.

Also, draft is less than a week away! Ahhhh!

BuffaloDiaspora
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November 12, 2020 4:09 pm

No matter how unhappy they are I don’t think Houston can afford trade both Westbrook and Harden and if they do they will want gobs of future assets coming back. The Rockets have mortgaged the next decade for a window that extends maybe another 3 years – slamming that window shut right now would be the biggest self-own ever.

That said! A 3-way deal that moves Buddy to Houston, Westbrook to a team that thinks they are a point guard away (Phoenix?) and some combination of current and future assets going back to the Kings might be enticing for everyone involved – Houston moves Harden back to PG and gets more shooting around him, unspecified team that wants Westbrook gets Westbrook, Kings get… stuff, I guess? I haven’t run the trade machine to see what’s possible.

andy_sims
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November 12, 2020 4:58 pm

This definitely has some good ideas, but with Houston really having no draft picks in the cupboard, everything in that regard would need to come from Phoenix. I don’t really know what they’d be willing to give up, and I’d imagine Houston would love to get some picks back for Russ.

After typing all that, I guess the upshot is that there probably isn’t any impetus to include Sacramento in that scenario, when they can do a standard two-team deal.

4on5
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November 12, 2020 6:35 pm

Even among the bottom 1/3 of the league, the Kings fiscal outlook is especially rocky. The have comparatively shallow pockets and invested heavily in commercial real estate that’s worth a fraction of its 2019 value and presents major cash flow issues.

If one’s assessment of a Westbrook trade focuses on assets, fit or development timeline before … it seems very unlikely they fiscally take on a contract of this size … I don’t think you realize how broke they are (by NBA standards).

MiseryLovesCompany
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November 12, 2020 10:00 pm

Cue the music: Weezer – say it ain’t so

SacTownKing916
November 13, 2020 8:05 am

Rockets get- Myles Turner,Buddy Hield
Pacers get- Russell Westbrook
Kings get- Victor Oladipo

rockbottom
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November 14, 2020 3:41 am

Makes zero sense for Kings ! May improve team slightly but age, salary and a likely unhappy attitude would negate any positives quickly ! Pass

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