The sudden annihilation of the Oklahoma City Thunder with the trade of Paul George has left the NBA with a new nugget of interest: what happens to Russell Westbrook? As it turns out, the Detroit Pistons (and Miami Heat) are the most likely suitors according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Naturally, given Westbrook’s inane ability to be a blackhole of pull-up jumpers on offense and bloated contract that pays him $171 million over the next four seasons, there are reasons for concern.
Some of us here at Palace of Pistons decided to voice our opinion on the possibility of trading for a bonafide star like Russell Westbrook. Another star! A big name to help fill Little Caesar’s Arena on a cold January night! Does that matter to any of us? Find out:
Aaron Johnson, Palace of Pistons Co-Founder, Def Pen Hoops Columnist
There really isn’t going to be a scenario where I’d be in favor of the Pistons trading for Westbrook unless they are receiving assets in the deal, which isn’t happening. When you account for fit, age, contract, and injury history, there is no reason for Detroit to pursue Westbrook. With Ed Stefanski now running the show, I believe Detroit has merely done their due diligence on Westbrook, as they did Mike Conley, but won’t overpay or fork over their best assets for a player that does not raise their ceiling all too much.
Would Westbrook make Detroit a better regular season team? Absolutely. Was he with the Thunder, or could he be with the Pistons a conducive piece to winning in the NBA Playoffs? No. His ball-dominant, shot-chucking, defensive intensity-lacking style of play does not work in the playoffs. During the regular season, Westbrook is able to physically overwhelm opposing teams and players, but that doesn’t happen against the best of the best in the postseason.
Detroit should be saving their assets and money so that come next season they have the cap space to try and pry restricted free agents from teams such as Caris LeVert from Brooklyn or Jaylen Brown from Boston. And if they can’t make a big splash in free agency, then check the trade market then. Stay away from Brodie, sorry.
Mike Anguilano, Def Pen Hoops Managing Editor/Palace of Pistons Contributor
Anytime a superstar becomes available, the rest of the NBA takes notice. And, particularly, the small market teams take notice as they really only have a chance at a superstar via trade (like how the Pistons traded for Blake Griffin). Given that, there is no way Detroit should give up assets and mortgage the future for a 30-year-old point guard who is owed over $170 million for the next four seasons.
Sure, Russell Westbrook is a star. Those types of players are not available that often. Detroit could certainly take advantage of that, and they have the pieces to make it work, but they should not. Westbrook is a poor shooter, managing only 42.8% from the floor and a ghastly 29% from deep. He is a deceptively-poor defender netting a 107.4 defensive rating last season, which is the worst of his career. While he did average 22.9 points per game and would provide some good burst to the rim, when does that start to wane due to age? Westbrook relies on athleticism, and Father Time usually takes that first.
We haven’t even touched on what the Pistons would need to give up, like young promising prospects like Luke Kennard and/or Sekou Doumbouya, to get Westbrook. Plus the salary filler needed to make the trade work, and the Pistons would be gutting their already questionable depth.
Overall, it would be a mistake to trade for Russell Westbrook. Even if next season is fun and probably gets the Pistons at least a top-five seed in the Eastern Conference, eventually the contract will come back to cripple the organization. Russ is due to make $47 million in the 2022-23 season at age 34. I said previously that the Blake Griffin pill would be hard to swallow as him and his knees age, but Westbrook’s could be even tougher.
Dylan Edenfield, Palace of Pistons and Def Pen Hoops Contributor
I want no part of Russell Westbrook on the Pistons. A trade for him would scream “making a move just to make one” and would erase the progress the franchise has made since Stefanski was hired. Westbrook is viewed as a negative asset by most (if not all) other teams not because he is a bad player but his because his contract is suffocating for an aging star. His fit with Blake Griffin is suspect at best, and in the end it’s Blake’s team.
Also, the Pistons, a team who struggled with “having shooters that can’t shoot” in the past, would be adding salt in the wound in a Westbrook trade – a player notoriously known for being a high volume-low percentage 3-point shooter. Even if the Pistons were GETTING assets to take on Westbrook’s gargantuan contract, I just have a hard time seeing this being a long-term success for the Pistons, as Westbrook doesn’t necessarily make the team contenders in the East.
Jacob Rogers, Palace of Pistons Contributor
Personally, I am not in favor of the Pistons making a trade for Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook. Yes, Westbrook is a one of a kind player. Yes, he’s averaged a triple-double in back to back seasons. Yes, he’s uber-athletic and can create for himself. However, there are downfalls to Westbrook that people seem to forget about.
Dwane Casey’s offense is predicated on ball-movement and three-point shooting. Over the last three years, he’s been shooting only 31 percent from three, equal to his career average. That’s not exactly what you want out of your superstar point guard.
Also, in order to get Westbrook, the Pistons would have to pay a very high price. A deal for Westbrook would force this Pistons to send OKC approximately $38 million in contracts, as well as an abundance of first round picks. A deal for the Pistons would look like: Reggie Jackson, Tony Snell, Langston Galloway, and Khryi Thomas/Bruce Brown along with three to five future first-round picks. In my opinion, the amount Detroit would have to give up, along with Westbrook’s shooting struggles, turns me away from making a trade for the OKC guard.