Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors shifts the landscape of the entire NBA as a doom-bringing Voltron forms in the Bay Area. In addition to adding a top-five player to a 73-win team that was one poorly-played fourth quarter away from back-to-back championships, it also destroys the organization that almost kept them from even making it to the Finals in the first place.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are faced with major questions after Durant's 4th of July fireworks set their franchise ablaze. How do they continue from here? How do you recover from the loss of the best player to ever play for your team?
Some have suggested in the wake of Durant's move that, with Russell Westbrook a free agent next year, Oklahoma City should tear down. Trade Westbrook for assets before he ditches them next summer, as if it's a surefire thing.
Such doom-and-gloom is inevitable in the aftermath of such an earth-shattering blow to the team, but it's hard to predict from the outside whether or not Westbrook is a goner for sure. That hasn't stopped people from preparing theoretical trade offers for him.
On Monday morning, my Twitter timeline was harder to keep up with than the spinning wheels of an overheating slot machine , but one of the more popular suggestions flying across it was that the Lakers should trade for Russell Westbrook. That this was the team's chance to call up Oklahoma City, offer up their pick of the players from the team's young core and take them in exchange for Westbrook, a Los Angeles native and former UCLA Bruin Lakers fans have long salivated over.
For the second summer in a row, the Lakers face a Stanford marshmallow experiment as a franchise. Just as with last year's talk of trading for DeMarcus Cousins, the front office has to decide if they want one marshmallow now at the expense of several later.
Russell Westbrook is better than any of the players in the Lakers’ young core. He will likely always be better than any of the young Lakers. That is not to say I'm down on this core group, just that it's unrealistic to expect any player to reach Westbrook's heights. He's REALLY FREAKING GOOD.
The Lakers still should not trade for him. While Westbrook would undoubtedly make Los Angeles better next year, that is the end of his contract. The team would be gambling that Westbrook and whatever youngsters they managed to keep out of Sam Presti's clutches (in addition to the extra contract year Westbrook's bird rights would allow them to offer) would be a competitive enough team to convince him to stay, but such a move does not come without risk.
Instead, the Lakers should simply stand pat and wait a year, in the hopes that an extra year of experience under the belts of their young core, as well as the presence of their veteran additions and Luke Walton's (hopefully) competent offense allow D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance, Jr. to look like an up and coming team that would give Westbrook the opportunity to bring a title back to his hometown.
Is that plan guaranteed to succeed? Not even close. Westbrook could stay in Oklahoma City as that fanbase’s now-beloved only hope, or he could dip out to a team that he decides is more ready to win than the Lakers, or retire to become a full-time fashion mogul. Who knows?
But trading for Westbrook is a bigger gamble, because if the Lakers give up all of the promising players for a guy that leaves after a year, and then lose their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, they'll be in as bad a place as when they started their rebuild.
It's not worth the risk for a guy they could just attempt to sign in a year. July is a popular time to think up fantasy trades and other crazy theoretical moves, but the Lakers are better off attempting to build something tangible and hoping that it's enough to convince free agents like Westbrook to hop aboard next summer.
As with the DeMarcus Cousins talks last year, the Lakers need to pass on the instant gratification of getting one marshmallow now in the hopes of receiving several in the future.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.