Russell Westbrook Possible Landing Spots: Which Teams Could Trade for Houston Rockets Star?

Just over a year after leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to be reunited with James Harden, Russell Westbrook appears set to be moving again. On Wednesday night, The Athletic reported the nine-time All Star has told the Houston Rockets he wanted to be traded, after growing uneasy with "the team's accountability and culture."

Head coach Mike D'Antoni announced he would not return to the Rockets a day after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the Western Conference semifinals in September, before general manager Daryl Morey left the franchise a month later.

After averaging a triple-double during his last three seasons with the Thunder, Westbrook averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7 assists in 35.9 minutes on the court in 57 regular-season games with the Rockets and has reportedly expressed his desire of returning to the "floor-general role" he held during his 11 seasons in Oklahoma.

Moving on the 2017 MVP could be tricky for the Rockets as Westbrook turns 32 on Thursday and is under contract for another three years for a total of $132 million. Here's a look at potential suitors.

New York Knicks

The NBA's perennial underachievers were one of the first teams mentioned as possible destinations for Westbrook after his desire to leave Houston emerged, with The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reporting the Knicks were interested in the All-Star guard.

As ever when it comes to New York, there are a series of caveats to consider. The Knicks have been desperate to land an All-Star caliber player in free agency for years, but have repeatedly been left empty-handed, most recently when they missed out on Kevin Durant two years ago. Westbrook would go some way in addressing the lack of stardust at Madison Square Garden, while his reported desire to be the leading figure of his next team could fit in well with the Knicks, who have one of the youngest rosters in the league.

The Knicks, as per figures from Spotrac, have the second-largest amount of cap space in the NBA after the Atlanta Hawks, meaning they could accommodate Westbrook's contract, which commands $132 million over the next three seasons.

With Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and Reggie Bullock all one expiring contracts, the Knicks also have a combination of young players and salary cap fodder that may tempt the Rockets into a trade, as Houston could wipe the slate clean and give itself some much-needed salary cap breathing space.

Conversely, however, New York would be taking a massive risk by going all-in on a player whose best years may be behind him. The Knicks have been there before.

Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 8 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Mike Ehrmann/Getty

Los Angeles Clippers

Like the Knicks, the Clippers were also mentioned by Kevin O'Connor as one of the teams whose ears perked up at the news Westbrook wants out of Houston. Adding the nine-time All-Star to a roster already containing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would give the Clippers a championship-caliber Big Three and relieve Leonard of the burden of scoring, but it would be a major gamble for the organization.

The Clippers would have to give up some of their prized assets to land Westbrook—think Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, for example—and his fit alongside Leonard and George would come with a huge question mark as the trio— Westbrook in particular—can be ball-dominant.

Furthermore, the Clippers can't upset their two stars, who can both opt out of their deals at the end of the season.

The Clippers may like to entertain thoughts of trading for Westbrook, but the deal seems too much of a risk for them. Stranger things, however, have happened in the NBA.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns came within inches of making the playoffs after going 8-0 in the seeding games when the NBA season resumed in the Orlando bubble following the coronavirus pandemic. Adding an All-Star player like Westbrook to the mix would relieve Devin Booker of the burden that comes with being the primary scorer and would in all likelihood lift the Suns' offensive ceiling.

It would, however, come at a cost as Phoenix may have to sacrifice some of its young prospects, such as Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre, to tempt Houston into a trade and balance the books. According to Spotrac, the Suns have $20.6 million of practical cap space available.

Detroit Pistons

Like the Knicks, the Pistons have been looking for a star player to be the face of the franchise for some time. Westbrook would surely address that, while simultaneously injecting new energy into an offense that ranked 24th in the league in points scored last season. The Pistons could offer the 2017 MVP a "floor general" role he apparently craves, and pairing him with Christian Wood is an intriguing proposition, given the latter's ability to stretch the floor and open up the lane.

Any deal for Westbrook, however, would in all likelihood have to include Blake Griffin, whose career in Detroit has never taken off due to a host of injury issues. Pairing Griffin with James Harden could tempt Houston, and the fact Griffin's contracts is $5 million a year cheaper than Westbrook's and ends a year earlier could also sweeten the deal.