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NBA Free Agency Rumors: Thunder reportedly might trade Russell Westbrook, teams believe he’s headed to Lakers next summer

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Could Westbrook be coming home? Or might he head to a hated rival instead?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The moment Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder, predictions about Russell Westbrook jumping ship to the Los Angeles Lakers next summer began to fly across print and social media. There were the predictable calls for the Lakers to trade for Westbrook, but even if they couldn’t or wouldn’t, surely the Los Angeles native would want to return home in free agency now that his co-star left Oklahoma City, right?

People on Twitter aren’t the only ones connecting the dots. The Lakers reportedly think they can land the local product in free agency, and Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript wrote last week that "there are teams who are convinced [Westbrook is] likely heading to Los Angeles after the final buzzer of the 2017 season."

If teams really believe Westbrook will head to the Lakers if all things are equal, they could attempt to gain an advantage in the recruiting process by giving up assets in order to trade for the superstar guard, thus affording them the ability to offer him a fifth year on his next contract.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report reported on Wednesday morning that the Thunder could look to move Westbrook soon, and there might already be a front-runner in the bidding process (quote transcribed via the Washington Post):

"What I’m hearing in Las Vegas from some GMs, not only are they hearing that Westbrook will get traded, it’s that it will be sooner rather than later — before the season starts — and the most likely destination is the Boston Celtics," Beck said in a Bleacher Report video.

The Celtics do have the assets to make a compelling offer for Westbrook, but given how notoriously leaky the Garden is, it’s probably best to take their "most likely" status with a small grain of salt.

Losing out on Westbrook, especially to Boston, would be a blow for Los Angeles. However, the team has shown in Las Vegas Summer League that their rebuild is making steady progress already. In light of that, the Lakers should probably still resist the temptation to move assets for Westbrook and hope their promising young core can show enough this season to make a compelling pitch to Westbrook to climb aboard next summer, rather than gutting their roster and hoping he stays in Los Angeles.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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