Cleat Geeks

Westbrook to Stay in OKC

Oaklahoma City Thunder star guard Russell Westbrook has agreed to a three-year, $85 million-plus maximum contract renegotiation.

In the structure of the renegotiation, Westbrook’s salary in 2016-17 increases from $17.8 million to a $26.5 million max salary, $28.5 million in 2017-18, and includes a player option for $30.6 million in the third year. According to league rules, Oklahoma City is able to offer the extension only because it has the appropriate salary cap space available.

Photo by: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Westbrook, a five-time All-Star, and his agent, Thad Foucher of Wasserman Media Group, are planning to fly to Oklahoma City on Thursday morning, sign the deal and likely hold a news conference with Thunder ownership and executives, later on the same day at which they will make the new 3 year pact official.

For the Thunder, the Westbrook commitment is a significant statement in the wake of star Kevin Durant’s departure for to the Golden State Warriors. Westbrook essentially is no longer a free agent in the summer of 2017, he will not be looking over his shoulder as an impending free agent, and he can just play and lead the Thunder. This is now his team. From a management perspective it gives Thunder GM Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan a longer window to continue improving the Thunder roster around Westbrook without the fear of losing him in free agency.

Under the new contract as it has been explained to me, Westbrook will be under contract for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons and will hold a player option for the 2018-19 season. He does have a player option for $30.6 million in the third year but, the most likely scenario s that Westbrook becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018 again.

Photo by; Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Photo by; Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

It is also important to note that Westbrook has played all eight seasons of his career in Oklahoma City, because that player option for the third season of the deal that would allow him to capitalize on the league rule allowing players who have completed 10 seasons to earn a larger max salary.

In the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook new deal could be instrumental in recruiting another elite free agent to the Thunder’s talented core next summer. One such target could be Oklahoma native Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Westbrook is already fond of the returning core of talent in Oklahoma City, including center Steven Adams, guard Victor Oladipo and center Enes Kanter. Westbrook has been working out for the past several days in Los Angeles with Oladipo, and head coach Billy Donovan in the gymnasium.

Westbrook had a season for the ages in 2015-16, tying Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles in the past 50 years with a league-high 18, including six in the month of March. He is also a five-time All-Star and a two-time All-Star Game MVP. If that is not enough, Westbrook averaged 23.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists last season and finished fourth in the MVP voting.

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