Russell Westbrook’s historic season ended with a thud, as the Thunder were eliminated in five games by James Harden’s Rockets. Westbrook is only the 2nd MVP – let’s admit it, the media loves Russ, and they’re going to hand him the award – in the last 35 years to get bounced in the 1st round.
The Thunder’s problems were many – Victor Oladipo’s first playoff rodeo was a disaster (10.8 ppg); Steven Adams had six double-doubles in the playoffs last year, but had none vs Houston; Andre Roberson was 3-of-21 on free throws – but there’s more bad news: It’s going to take a miracle for the team to improve in the offseason.
Westbrook: $28.2 mil
Adams $22.4 mil
Oladipo: $21 mil
Kanter: $17.8 mil
Westbrook: $30.4 mil
Adams: $24.1 mil
Oladipo: $21 mil
Kanter $18.6 mil
Adams and Oladipo are on the books for two more years after that.
If you want to take the eternal optimist’s view: Oladipo can’t play that poorly again. Roberson’s defense on Harden was very good (only 41 percent from the field shooting in the series). And maybe OKC can trade Kanter to someone (don’t press me for a team, that’s how much of a longshot it is) for a bunch of shooters.
But realistically, it’s going to be damn near impossible for the Thunder to lure and pay a big-time free agent.
So then you’re looking big-picture: Well, how do we present this situation to Westbrook in the offseason? Does he stick around for a 5-year, $219 million deal? Or does he say, ‘hey, I got my triple double and MVP, I’m ready to win now‘ and opt out after next season?
This is how poorly the Rockets series went: Russell Westbrook shot 14-of-49 in the 4th quarter. He was pass-happy in the first half of every game; by the 4th quarter, after the subs had usually blown a lead, he flipped the Hero Ball switch, and the Rockets took over.
Carmelo (Denver), LeBron (Cleveland) and Durant (OKC) all left the franchise that drafted them in their mid-20s after good runs. Paul George is probably going to be next on that list. And then … Russell Westbrook?
At some point in your basketball-playing life, you have to ask yourself: Do I want to have fun, or do I want to win?