It's been the big elephant in the room for a long time now. Since last year's playoffs, there have been talks of "Are the Oklahoma City Thunder willing to trade Russell Westbrook?" The talks began when Westbrook began shooting more than Kevin Durant and turning the ball over at a rather high rate. The talks peaked last year as Westbrook went a combined 36-of-100 from the field in the Thunder's five-game series against Dallas.
Westbrook did nothing to defuse the talks this season when he and Kevin Durant got into an altercation on the bench early in the Thunder's game Wednesday night. While Durant did his part in defusing it, this is just the beginning.
As a Lakers fan, I remember the Shaq/Kobe feud that led to the split of a dynasty. The Lakers held on to both and were forced to deal Shaq and suffer through some down years. If the Thunder are smart, they'll learn from the Lakers' mistake and use Westbrook as bait to build a team around their star for the future.
Here's five teams that should make a move on the young PG.
After last year's title run, there's no person more deserving of a title than Steve Nash. He's always handled himself with the utmost class. He's one of the few multiple MVP award-winners without a title.
The proposed trade would send Nash and a first-rounder to the Thunder for Westbrook and Nick Collison.
The Suns have admittedly entered a rebuilding mode. So far this season, Nash seems rather disinterested and hasn't played too motivated. This deal would put Nash on a contender for possibly the last time in his career. He's exactly the type of person who the Thunder need. He's a pass-first guard who could really flourish with James Harden and Durant and push this team to the next level. If it doesn't work out, Nash's contract is off the books this offseason and it's no harm, no foul.
For the Suns, they couldn't get a better return. They get a young star who can be "the man" on the Suns. They lose a first-round pick, but there's no one better they could get for Nash.
This one I'm not entirely sold on and it only goes through if Rajon Rondo's attitude turns bad. If it does, Westbrook is as close to an equal talent as there is.
The trade would be Rajon Rondo and JaJuan Johnson to Boston for Russell Westbrook and Cole Aldrich.
For the Thunder, they get another PG who'll fit their system better than the current PG. Rondo is as good a defensive PG as there comes in the league and the last thing he does is demand shots. He's under contract through 2014-15 and doesn't cause problems.
For Boston to make this trade, they'd have to admit in starting over. Westbrook isn't the type of PG who works well with other stars and on Boston, he's the fourth option. The Celtics would have to offer up a fire sale and restart and Westbrook might be the best piece to start over with.
No NBA team is deeper than the Nuggets and that means no team has more to offer up via trade than the Nuggets. While they wouldn't get a high-profile star in return, a trade with Denver could provide lots of benefits.
The trade would be Russell Westbrook, Cole Aldrich and Royal Ivey for Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez and Kosta Koufos.
For this Nuggets team that's been wheeling and dealing since the Carmelo Anthony trade, they could finally turn all those prospects into a star. With this trade, they could potentially trot out a lineup of Westbrook, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington and Chris Andersen. That might be the best lineup since they lost 'Melo.
The Thunder wouldn't take much of a step back in this trade. Replacing Westbrook with Andre Miller is not much a downgrade as Miller is really an underrated player. Adding Rudy Fernandez is another player who would fit OKC and their system. He's a high-energy player who'd get the fans out of their seats. A lineup of Miller, Thabo Sefolesha, Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins with Fernandez and Harden off the bench might be better than their current, and certainly deeper.
The Thunder themselves could admit they aren't going to be able to get equal value for Westbrook and look to stack up for the future. The Rockets have shown a willingness to rebuild already.
This trade would be Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey for Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and Jordan Hill.
While it seems like the Thunder are giving up a lot, they still get a lot. A lineup of Kevin Martin (who's played PG before), James Harden, Durant, Ibaka and Perkins with Dragic and Hill off the bench might be a better starting five than they have now. They could even put Eric Maynor or Dragic at the starting PG role and start Martin at SG, leaving Harden in his backup role that he seems to flourish in.
For Houston, they have shown they are ready to rebuild and Westbrook is as good as the pieces they might have gotten in the Chris Paul deal. A lineup of Westbrook, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, Luis Scola and Samuel Dalembert would be a competitive team and it'd allow Westbrook to be the man.
And I'll save the least likely for last. We know that Dwight Howard isn't happy in Orlando and won't stay there long.
The trade would be Westbrook, Perkins, Ibaka, Daequan Cook and Mohammed for Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson and Chris Duhon.
For the Thunder, they give up a lot, but they have the pieces for a dynasty. Durant and Howard for the next 10 years is scary. The lineup right away wouldn't be bad: Maynor, Harden, Durant, Anderson and Howard.
The problem is the team isn't deep at all. They'd need to add depth somehow, but the trio of Harden-Durant-Howard is scary good.
The Magic get the best haul possible for Howard. They get a budding star in Westbrook, a defensive stud in Perkins, an energy player in Ibaka and a shooter in Cook. They couldn't possibly ask for a better trade elsewhere.
As I said, it's the least likely of the trades, but it's possible.