The NBA landscape was altered in a big way last weekend when Kawhi Leonard decided to head for Los Angeles and the Clippers franchise in free agency after winning an NBA title in his only season with the Toronto Raptors.
Despite an excellent supporting cast that was due to return for the 2019-20 season and the passionate love of a city and an entire country, Leonard’s desire was to return home. With him, he’s bringing former OKC Thunder small forward Paul George with him. The Clippers agreed to send a bevy of draft picks to the Thunder in order to acquire the 2019 NBA MVP finalist’s services, pairing two of the league’s elite perimeter players together at the Staples Center.
Now, Oklahoma City is left with a dilemma. They don’t have the roster to compete for a championship or even the playoffs, but they still do have a superstar in Russell Westbrook. The 30-year-old point guard and former NBA MVP has shown few signs of slowing down, averaging a triple-double (22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 10.7 assists) last season. The Thunder are reportedly looking to trade Westbrook and start a rebuild, and they have several suitors.
Nonetheless, we believe that the best fit for Russell Westbrook happens to be the team that Kawhi Leonard just left: the Toronto Raptors.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri has shown himself to be one of the league’s best roster constructors. He’s also shown an ability to make creative trades in order to land superstars, as he did for Kawhi Leonard, which means that he could probably find a way to free up enough salary cap space to make Russell Westbrook’s 4-year, $170 million contract work.
Now that Kawhi Leonard isn’t an option for a huge deal, the Raptors could find a way to add Westbrook’s salary to their roster. The supporting cast around him would be solid and would put the Raptors in instant contention to win the Eastern Conference yet again. Kyle Lowry and Westbrook would form a dynamic backcourt duo unrivaled by any other in the league.
On top of that, the Raptors have a solid base of big men to pair with a potential Westbrook addition. Still around from last year’s championship roster are Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and young breakout star Pascal Siakam. While Leonard has moved on, it’s undeniable that the Raptors still have plenty of talent to make them competitive on their roster.
Toronto is looking for another star, and Russell Westbrook is the perfect fit for a reeling franchise that is trying to pick up the pieces after Kawhi Leonard’s disappointing departure. This move makes all the sense in the world, and both the Thunder and Raptors could end up being big winners in a potential deal for the All-Pro superstar.