It appears that the Russell Westbrook drama is over, as the superstar guard has agreed to a contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The deal is a re-negotiation similar to the one signed by James Harden earlier this summer. It will bump his salary next season from just over $17 million to the max of $26.5 million, while adding on two more seasons at max money as well.
Westbrook will have a player option in the third season, which means he could hit the free agent market in the summer of 2018 if he chooses. In exchange for the raises, Westbrook is giving up the ability to be a free agent next summer, which provides the Thunder with stability as they attempt to rebound from losing Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Nesgoda of SonicsRising.com broke the news:
Westbrook is about to sign an extension with OKC. Details are with the league for final approvals. Press conference tomorrow.
— Kevin Nesgoda (@KDN4) August 3, 2016
Financially this move allows Westbrook to maximize the amount of money he will make. In addition to raising his salary the next couple of years, he will have 10 years of NBA service in 2018 meaning his maximum salary rises from 30 percent of the salary cap to 35 percent.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, this means that their pursuit of Westbrook is essentially over before it started. With Durant opting to leave the Thunder, the thinking was that Oklahoma City would deal Westbrook rather than let him become a free agent next summer and risk losing the two biggest stars in franchise history in consecutive seasons.
The Lakers could have attempted to trade for Westbrook, but the more attractive option from their point of view would be to acquire him in free agency, where Los Angeles wouldn’t have to part with any of their young talent. Unfortunately, that dream has now come to an end and the Lakers will need to turn their 2017 free agency focus elsewhere.