Tramel: Hear me out; how about another Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade?
Some Oklahomans want Chris Paul to be groomed as the next Thunder coach. Some Oklahomans want CP3 to be groomed to run for governor. Most Oklahomans just want Paul to stick around and point guard the Thunder to make our long winter nights a lot more exciting.
Let’s call it 0-for-3. Mark Daigneault figures to have the job for quite awhile, CP isn’t likely to run as a Republican and the superstars’ siren song of playoff contention is calling.
So a trade seems likely, sooner or later, for our first and latest NBA icon. Phoenix, in particular, is heating up as a potential destination for Paul.
Meanwhile, down in Houston, Russell Westbrook has grown weary of being a Rocket and sidekick to James Harden.
Hmm. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Paul to Phoenix. Suns Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre to Houston. Westbrook back to OKC. With Sam Presti squeezing a little more juice out of the trade; perhaps another draft pick from or draft swap with Phoenix.
Oh, I haven’t lost my mind. As much fun as it would be having Westbrook back in town, I’m not advocating charging ahead with a Westbrook rebuild.
The glory days are gone. Maybe they’ll be back, but without Agent Zero leading the light brigade. The last thing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needs is playing alongside Westbrook. Paul, yes. Westbrook, no. Westbrook is many things, many of them admirable. Sensei is not one of them.
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But what if Presti can do what the Rockets cannot? Move Westbrook to one of the few franchises that 1) wants a $42-million-a-year, 32-year-old; and 2) can offer something in return.
The Rockets are in win-now mode, which means sending Westbrook to a place like New York doesn’t make sense, since the Knickerbockers aren’t likely to return something of immediate value. But the Thunder? The Thunder wants future assets. Draft picks and/or young talent.
If something worked out, it really would be a four-team deal. It’s just too much fun not to think of it as another Paul-Westbrook trade.
In the first CP-Westbrook trade, the Thunder got at least one (fabulous) year of Paul, two future Houston first-round draft picks and two options of Rocket draft swaps.
In this CP-Westbrook trade, the Thunder would get whatever draft concessions from Phoenix (perhaps the swap of first-round picks next week), plus what comes over from New York. A draft pick or two, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and whatever veterans make the money work.
That would mean the ultimate haul for trading Westbrook in summer 2019 would be a year of Paul, maybe three first-round draft picks and three first-round swaps. That’s how franchises are rebuilt.
Oh well, that’s just me rambling. Bring an NBA team to town, and everybody becomes a general manager.
But that’s what we have to do when title contention is out of the question and playoff contention isn’t assured, even if the Thunder ran back the roster that churned out such a charming 2019-20 season.
“We’re repositioning the franchise,” Presti said about five times Wednesday, during Daigneault’s introductory press conference.
We finally figured out what he means by that. The Thunder is headed toward a rebuild, but it’s not there yet. Didn’t happen when Kevin Durant left, didn’t happen when Paul George was traded, didn’t happen when Westbrook was traded. It will happen when Paul is traded, unless another golden goose falls in Presti’s lap.
Daigneault has a good attitude about the mystery surrounding the first Thunder team he will coach.
“I don't think anybody in the NBA knows what their roster will look like at a given time,” Daigneault said on his first day on the job.
True that. Presti calls the NBA “ever-evolving” and “built-to-be-disrupted.”
That means a dealer with a long-term view, like Presti, can become a merchant of menace. That’s how he quickly built the Supersonics/Thunder in the early days and how he can do it again even moreso now.
Even if it means trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.