The Not-happening, Head-scratcher Trades
There are several teams that are possible destinations but would be a long shot to land the Houston Rockets star. Let’s explore each of these teams, starting with the City of Brotherly Love:
Why it could happen: The salary is there. Tobias Harris would be the most obvious choice. He’s an off-ball shooter that would most likely thrive in a wide-open offense. He would be a great fit for conventional lineups at the small forward position and a power forward in small lineups.
Everything that makes him appealing to Houston, the shooting and perimeter defense, is what makes him a must for the 76ers. Al Horford could also be an option, were it not for his age and contract.
Why it won’t happen: The 76ers wouldn’t move the players Houston would want back for Russ. It’s pretty simple: the fit doesn’t work for Philly.
Why it could happen: The Kings love making bizarre decisions and have the contracts and cap space to make such a move.
Why it won’t happen: The Kings have their backcourt of Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox that are much cheaper and younger.
Why it could happen: Jayson Tatum could demand it!
Why it won’t happen: The Celtics already have a veteran point guard in Kemba Walker and are looking to let Tatum and Jaylen Brown develop. They’re in a similar financial situation as the Rockets and would probably love to shed salary.
Portland Trail Blazers
Why it could happen: CJ McCollum is redundant next to Damian Lillard but makes almost $10 million less than Westbrook. Portland would have to gut their roster to fit in Westbrook financially and are probably looking to move CJ McCollum in a salary dump.
Why it won’t happen: The Trailblazers are in salary cap hell. Adding Westbrook without moving Lillard would push them beyond cap hell into an IRS investigation.
Why it could happen: The Jazz have a lot of expiring contracts next season and Rocky Mountain-high aspirations.
Why it won’t happen: They also have extensions for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell coming up very soon and can’t add Westbrook’s contract.
New Orleans Pelicans
Why it could happen: New Orleans has a roster that is ready to compete and adding Russell Westbrook would boost their chances at the playoffs right away. They have almost $40 million coming off their books and have the contracts to match Westbrook’s.
Why it won’t happen: The Pelicans are intent on using their cap space to re-sign Brandon Ingram, which will erase a sizable chunk of their opening cap space. The Pelicans already have a point guard in Jrue Holiday, who is younger and cheaper than Westbrook, although probably not better.
New Orleans looks to be in an enviable situation. They have both a young core to build around and veterans on good contracts. New Orleans is probably looking to ride this roster out while the kids develop, with the added bonus of competing for the playoffs. Adding Westbrook’s contract would hinder their efforts to retain their young core, which seems to be this regime’s focus.
Why it could happen: The Suns may be sick and tired of losing and want to turbo-charge their rebuild. They have $30 million coming off their books and could include Ricky Rubio in the trade to lessen the salary shock.
Why it won’t happen: The Suns have Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton and are presumably building around them. They’re 23 and 21 while Westbrook will be 32 next year. By the time Booker and Ayton are ready to compete in the postseason, Westbrook will be old and likely overpaid.
If the duo was older or Westbrook was younger, then maybe this would make sense. Another factor is Ayton is only cheap for two more seasons and the consistently stingy Suns probably don’t want to add significant salary.
Next: Teams with young stars