The 2016-17 NBA season came to an end in disappointing fashion for Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite an incredible season for Westbrook in his first year without Kevin Durant at his side, the Thunder were simply outmatched against James Harden and the Houston Rockets in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Westbrook was a one-man show during the series with the Rockets as he did everything within his power to keep the Thunder competitive. Unfortunately, Oklahoma City’s lack of talent outside of Westbrook was glaring and a well-balanced Rockets squad took advantage winning the series in five games.
Now the Thunder brass will head into the NBA offseason with hopes of surrounding Westbrook with the talent needed to take the next step toward becoming a title contender in the Western Conference. Although general manager Sam Presti and company are dedicated to the task at hand, they can only hope Westbrook is willing to stay with the team beyond next season, via Erik Horne of NewsOK.com:
“When that time comes, we’ll sit down and have conversations with him about what that opportunity presents,” Presti said, calling the Designated Veteran Player Exception Westbrook is eligible for “good for the league.
“We’re hopeful he remains really excited about being a part of this organization for the remainder of his career.”
If the Thunder have another early exit in the playoffs next year or fail to make the postseason altogether, Westbrook could seriously consider leaving the team in free agency in July of 2018.
Westbrook has two years left on his current deal with the Thunder with the second year being a player option. The superstar guard will make $28.5 million next season with a player option of $30.6 million for the 2018-19 campaign.
However, Westbrook is eligible to sign a five-year contract extension in July which could make him a very rich man with a deal worth $220 million over the next half decade. It remains to be seen whether the perennial All-Star is ready to commit long-term.