While trade speculation involving Russell Westbrook has been a popular topic of discussion in NBA circles since Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Westbrook has given Oklahoma City no indication that he wants out, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. One source who spoke to Slater described the star point guard as “ticked off” about Durant’s departure and eager for the new challenge of playing without his All-Star teammate.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical paints a similar picture, writing that Westbrook is “a proponent of the young talent” on OKC’s roster, and is ready to lead the team in 2016/17. League sources tell Wojnarowski that teams interested in trading for Westbrook have been informed by the Thunder that he’s not available.
As Wojnarowski details, the Thunder’s decision to rescind Dion Waiters‘ qualifying offer is related to the Westbrook situation as well. Teams under the cap are allowed to renegotiate veteran contracts, and the Thunder are making it a priority to get a renegotiation done with Westbrook. Thad Foucher – Westbrook’s agent – and Thunder GM Sam Presti have been in “regular contact” this month, but Westbrook has yet to commit to renegotiating his contract, which would mean forgoing free agency next summer.
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Teams with the cap room available to do so are allowed to renegotiate veteran contracts if they were signed over three years ago. In Westbrook’s case, a renegotiation would allow him to receive a salary increase up to the maximum assuming OKC has the necessary cap room, and three new years could be added to his contract. For now, with Waiters’ cap hold still on their books, the Thunder are over the cap. But removing Waiters’ cap hold and renouncing their mid-level, bi-annual, and trade exceptions would allow the team to create a chunk of cap space.
If the Thunder can ultimately convince Westbrook to negotiate a new contract before he reaches free agency, it would give the team a chance to recruit one of its top targets in 2017 free agency to pair with the point guard — Wojnarowski identifies Oklahoma native Blake Griffin as a star player being eyed by OKC. Griffin has an early termination option available for 2017/18, meaning he’ll likely hit the open market next summer.