The Oklahoma City Thunder are determined to not have history repeat itself when it comes to Russell Westbrook. After losing Kevin Durant to free agency and getting nothing in return, the Thunder want to ensure that the same thing doesn't happen with Westbrook, who will be a free agent next summer. Westbook has remained non-committal about his future with OKC but he is reportedly unhappy with the way Durant decided to leave, and has put a lot of pressure on his own personal future in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder though now find themselves in position to pay Westbrook what is necessary to keep him around. With Dion Waiters joining the Heat, Oklahoma City can now offer its star guard more money than ever before for a max-level deal. ESPN's Royce Young has the salary cap details:
The Thunder rescinded Waiters' $6.8 million qualifying offer last week, making him an unrestricted free agent. However, they did not renounce him, keeping his Bird Rights, which also put a $12.8 million cap hold on their books. With Waiters set to sign with the Heat, that hold will come off, bringing the Thunder more than $14 million under the salary cap. To sign Westbrook to a maximum extension, the Thunder need about $8.7 million in space.
The Thunder can renegotiate Westbrook's contract up, starting him on a four-year, maximum level deal this season. Currently, Westbrook is set to make $17.7 million this season, but could move that to close to around $27.5 million on a renegotiated deal this season. In the long term, Westbrook will make more money on a renegotiated extension than if he waits to sign a max level contract next summer, even with the rising salary cap.
Young also reports that if Westbrook turns down the Thunder's offer, Oklahoma City will begin looking at trading him. Again, with Durant leaving and the Thunder not getting anything in return, this would be the appropriate action for Oklahoma City to take with its superstar guard.
Westbrook is facing a possible career-changing decision. If he accepts the Thunder's extension, he will be earning the most money he could make on the market but Oklahoma City may take some time to become a championship contender again. He could decide to reject the Thunder's offer and then his future becomes even more uncertain as Oklahoma City will likely trade him. However, that team trading for Westbrook will likely have to give up players and assets for him, so once again he may be playing for a team in transition.
With so many variables, this won't be an easy choice for Westbrook or the Thunder but it will be one that will have lasting effects on the All-Star guard and the franchise. It is a situation that should become much clearer once Westbrook makes a decision on his future.