Russ & Book & Deandre? ESPN’s Pelton suggests a Suns trade for Westbrook
Ricky Rubio signing with the Suns hasn’t ended that NBA followers’ tic of linking Phoenix to the latest available starting point guard on the market.
Russell Westbrook is open to the Oklahoma City Thunder finding him a new home now that running-mate Paul George is off to Los Angeles, and according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the eight-time All-Star hopes to move on soon.
Westbrook would consider joining new Miami Heat wing Jimmy Butler in South Beach, but wherever he goes, the 30-year-old wants to play for a contender, Wojnarowski reports.
That would probably not be the Suns, but ESPN’s Kevin Pelton does provide a thought-provoking trade scenario for Phoenix to land the ultra-talented guard — and without giving up franchise cornerstones Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Pelton suggests the Suns package guard Tyler Johnson, center Aron Baynes and a 2022 first-round pick as throw-ins to the deal with the main return piece for the Thunder being current free agent Kelly Oubre Jr., who would be acquired via sign-and-trade.
As long as Oubre’s deal was for a minimum of three years and started at more than $12.1 million, this deal would work.
Getting Oubre, a 23-year-old wing who averaged 20.6 points per 36 minutes after last season’s trade to Phoenix, would be the main value for Oklahoma City in this deal. It also potentially yields a first-round pick if the Suns become a playoff team and gives the Thunder cap flexibility.
Unfortunately, this deal leaves Phoenix’s roster somewhat imbalanced. After previously being overstuffed there, the Suns would suddenly be thin on the wing and reliant on first-round picks Ty Jerome and Cameron Johnson to play rotation minutes as rookies. Phoenix also would be too crowded at point guard with the addition of Westbrook alongside Rubio … But the Suns would still have an excellent chance of ending a nine-season playoff drought.
The Western Conference is certainly reshaped this summer, but the field is still deep. The Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Blazers, Rockets and Jazz give the conference seven probable playoff locks, barring major injury issues. The Spurs are the Spurs. The Kings, Pelicans and Mavericks are all intriguing.
Maybe Phoenix would be in that last group of teams with a shot with a very appealing trio of stars.
The question then is how the rest of the Suns’ roster would look. It’d be weird to say the least.
Here’s a guess at what Phoenix could have as a depth chart.
PG: Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio, Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter, Jalen Lecque
SG: Devin Booker, Ty Jerome
SF: Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson
PF: Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky
C: Deandre Ayton, Ray Spalding
Swap in Rubio as the third guard to keep one of Booker or Westbrook on the floor at all times, and even run them three at a time — defensively it works better than that infamous Isaiah Thomas-Eric Bledsoe-Goran Dragic lineup a few years back — and the Suns have unique pieces to a puzzle.
Add a few more vets minimum pieces up front, and Phoenix is set up decently.
Set for what? A No. 10 seed in the Western Conference at worst? Suns fans would probably take it, though it’s probably unhealthy to indulge in such unlikely possibilities.