Russell Westbrook‘s disdain for the media has been talked about quite a bit in recent weeks. Westbrook certainly won’t like what’s written about him and his team now that the Thunder failed to win a playoff series for the third straight season.
The perennial All-Star point guard was outplayed by counterpart Damian Lillard throughout the series with the Trail Blazers, culminating in Lillard’s series-ending 37-footer on Tuesday. Westbrook shot a playoff career-low 36% during Oklahoma City’s abbreviated postseason appearance, the third consecutive time he’s shot below 40% in the opening round. His 22.8 PPG average was his lowest since his first playoff appearance during the 2009/10 season.
Westbrook is undeniably one of the league’s best and most durable players. He’s averaged a triple-double the last three seasons, a momentous feat for anyone but especially a 6’3” guard. However, he’ll be 31 next season and he’s owed a whopping $171MM over the next four seasons.
Paul George averaged 28.6 PPG in the playoffs despite a nagging shoulder injury, though it did affect his 3-point shot (31.9%). George, like Westbrook, was also turnover-prone in the series.
With the possible exception of sixth man Dennis Schroder, the team’s stars didn’t get a whole lot of help. Steven Adams wasn’t the same tenacious defender he’s been in past postseasons, even though Portland lacked its starting center. Jerami Grant had some good moments in the last three games but overall the wings didn’t produce nearly enough.
So where do the Thunder go from here? George is signed through the 2021/22 season, though he has a player option on the final year. Adams has two big years ($53.3MM) left on his deal. Three other players are making at least $9MM next season, putting a major strain on the team’s cap and ability to make moves.
The club could look to trade one of its stars, though Westbrook’s contract would be very difficult to move. Or they could simply try to add some new pieces, particularly through the mid-level exception, and hope for better results.
That brings us to our question of the day: Should the Thunder try to trade Russell Westbrook or Paul George with the aim of starting a rebuild? Or can they be a better playoff team by adding some different pieces around them?
Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.