Jacari McRae| July 7th, 2019
The NBA is now more wide open than ever before.
Early Saturday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and pulled off a trade for Paul George In a move to acquire George, the Clippers gave up Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, four unprotected first rounders, a protected first rounder, plus two pick swaps. That’s a lot to give up, but if you have a chance to land Leonard and George, you do it.
ESPN story on OKC’s Sam Presti leveraging the Clippers and Raptors on a Paul George trade, a deal ultimately dictating the balance of power in the NBA. https://t.co/Etm0YwVLmB
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
Before the Oklahoma City Thunder traded George to the Clippers, another deal was reportedly in the works. In Wojnarowski’s piece, he reported the Thunder were willing to trade Russell Westbrook and George to the Raptors, assuming Leonard stayed in Toronto. The deal would’ve centered around Toronto’s Pascal Siakam.
Had Presti been able to strike a deal for George with Toronto — and Leonard was willing to stay — George was believed to be willing to join the Raptors, sources said. Presti pursued a package of Russell Westbrook and George to the Raptors — with the NBA’s Most Improved Player, forward Pascal Siakam, as the centerpiece of a broader, asset-crippling deal — but Ujiri couldn’t keep up with the Clippers’ willingness to unload unprotected first-round picks into the middle of the next decade, league sources said. Simply, Toronto didn’t have the depth of picks it needed to get a deal done — nor the certainty that getting George would make Leonard stay with the Raptors, sources said.
The Raptors could have been looking at adding Westbrook, with four years, $171 million left on his deal, and George to a roster that Leonard still might have fled. Toronto extended itself as far as it could for Leonard, but Ujiri could never be sure that the Thunder even wanted to do a deal with them — and perhaps were just using the Raptors to squeeze more out of the Clippers.
Wojnarowski mentions in the end that the Thunder could’ve been using the Raptors as leverage to get more out of the Clippers. But, the fact that Westbrook’s name was mentioned could indicate the team is open to moving him. If true, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Miami Heat makes a call about him.
The Heat have been interested in Westbrook in the past, dating back to the 2008 NBA Draft when they considered drafting him over Michael Beasley. The team reportedly worked him out at the Heat facility and was impressed. However, in the end, they decided Beasley’s offensive talents were too hard to pass up. Now, 11 years later, they may have another opportunity to acquire him.
Miami has been aggressive in the trade market in hopes of pairing another star with Jimmy Butler. As stated before, the team is currently trying to pry Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards. There’s some in the Heat organization even willing to take on John Wall’s contract–four-years 172 million–if it lands them Beal, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently reported.
As for Westbrook, I’m not sure what it’ll take to acquire him. It’ll probably have to include at least one of Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow plus fillers to match Westbrook’s $38.5 million salary. But considering his huge contract, his value around the league may not be so high. If that’s the case, then Miami could try to build a package around Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, as the Athletic’s Sam Amick proposed. And with OKC owning Miami’s 2023 protected first rounder, the Heat could also offer to lower its protections. This scenario would allow the Heat to keep it’s two young players in Winslow and Adebayo. The question is would OKC accept that.
For now, this is all just speculation. But anytime a star player like Westbrook is available, whether, through free agency or trade, Pat Riley and the Heat should not be ruled out.
Questions and comments?
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