Detroit Pistons: Revisiting a Potential Russell Westbrook Trade

NBA fans have begun to revisit the possibility of a blockbuster trade between the Houston Rockets and the Detroit Pistons.

Ah yes, the dog days of the NBA offseason means it’s time for trade rumors to start flying from talk show hosts, Twitter and Instagram. The latest of those rumors to involve the Detroit Pistons is a potential trade involving Russell Westbrook.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, “wasn’t Russell already linked to the Pistons?” That answer would be yes, about a year ago he was linked to Detroit when it was clear he was moving on from OKC. As a matter of fact, our beloved site expert, Nicolas Henkel, wrote why the Pistons should avoid acquiring Westbrook.

If you were not able to read the article or forgot what it was about (located in the link above), the main three points why he advised the Pistons to decline were “salary cap purgatory, offensively stagnant, and the aforementioned cost,” all three still apply to this day, if not even more now then over a year ago.

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Nick’s first point, about salary cap purgatory, still holds true. You might be wondering what could possibly be worse than Blake’s contract that has one more year with $36.5 million and then a team option of $38.9 million for the 2021-22 season, but Westbrook’s deal is worse.

Russell Westbrook’s contract is also a super max contract, but it was signed later when the cap was bigger meaning that he will be making $41 million next season, $44 million in 2021-22, and a player option for $47 million at the ripe age of 33 years old.

With Westbrook starting to rack up the injuries and with his game entirely based off of his athleticism, that doesn’t spell trouble at all.

Clearly that was sarcasm as you can look to our nation’s capital to see the trouble the Wizards are in with John Wall’s similarly massive deal and play style meaning he’s cashing his $40 million checks while being injured pretty much for the last three years, playing 73 games in three seasons.

If the Pistons were to pull the trigger here, they wouldn’t have the cap space for the already hyped up 2022 offseason where a lot of the league’s best players are going to be hitting the market.

What worries me is that Tom Gores has green lit a move for a similar move before with the Blake Griffin trade, and Troy Weaver clearly has a good relationship with Westbrook by helping draft him back in Oklahoma City, so that could mean that Troy would convince Tom and Ed Stefanski to go out and acquire Russell Westbrook.

The second point that Nick brought up is how stagnant the offence would have been with an Andre Drummond, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin trio.

Now that Andre Drummond is gone and with the emergence of Christian Wood as a true stretch big, the lane is significantly less clogged meaning that the offense wouldn’t be nearly as bad as last year’s offense would have been.

Detroit’s three-point shooting was better this year with Tony Snell and Svi Mykhailiuk shooting very well to help improve on their poor percentages in the 2018-19 season.

Finally, Nick’s third point was about the cost of acquiring Westbrook. He brought up the Paul George trade and that is a good thing to look at a year after.

Obviously “Pandemic P” or “Playoff P” has gone away as of late with Paul George’s playoff numbers starting to go back to his regular season stat line, but the memes were flying regardless about how much the Clippers gave up for George.

They ended up giving away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and five first round picks, including the Clippers first rounder in 2022, 2024, 2026, Miami’s first rounder in 2021, 2023 and the rights to swap their pick with the Clippers first round pick in 2023 and 2025.

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Even if George was at the same MVP level that he was at last season it would still be quite hard to justify giving up all of that for him.

The cost of Westbrook in this new hypothetical scenario seems to be Westbrook for Griffin and Derrick Rose. Most people would say that the Pistons should have to give up some assets along with Blake to get Russell, but I couldn’t disagree more.

Westbrook’s value has never been lower and getting Griffin would be perfect for the Rockets’ style of play. Blake would allow the Rockets to use a lineup of Harden, Gordon, House, Covington, Griffin or Harden, Gordon, Covington, Tucker, Griffin, making Blake the perfect small ball center who can efficiently spread the floor.

Pistons Get
Russell Westbrook
Rockets Get
Blake Griffin
2021 Second Round Pick (LAL)

I would very much hope that the Pistons do not give up a young player unless it’s Khyri Thomas, or a pick unless it’s a second-round pick. While this might not be an ideal trade, positionally it could make a lot of since.

If the Pistons aren’t as high on Haliburton or Hayes as us fans are, then they could trade for Westbrook, let Sekou start in his place and take Onyeka Okongwu or Obi Toppin as a replacement for Blake.

Additionally, a trade for Westbrook could lead to the Pistons also flipping Derrick Rose to another team to try and get some more draft capital. Basically, in short, as long as the trade would be something like Russell Westbrook for Blake Griffin and the Lakers 2021 second rounder, I would be ok with that as we sure aren’t contending with our current roster.

Just thinking about a pick and roll/pick and pop with Westbrook and Christian Wood makes me smile and makes me think we could finally snap that playoff game losing streak in 2021 with a lineup of Westbrook, Svi, Sekou, Wood, and our 2020 selection.

Those four mean we could draft a SG, SF, PF, or even C, giving us a lot more options than the current idea of strictly PG.

I will leave you with a thought that has been floating in the back of my head for some time now, what if we got Russell and kept Blake? That might be the worst idea you’ve ever heard, and I can imagine that many of you are probably screaming “No!” at me as loud as you can but hear me out.

IF and only IF Christian Wood decides he would like to leave Detroit and IF it’s clear we are not getting any marquee free agents, then why not trade for Russell. Westbrook was having a very good regular season pre-COIVD and quad injury, and last season Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook were on the all-NBA third team.

Pistons Get
Russell Westbrook
Rockets Get
Christian Wood
2021 First Round Pick (lottery protected)
2023 Second Round Pick

The trade above is the trade that I would see as a potential deal where the Rockets would receive Christian Wood and Langston Galloway, in addition to the Pistons’ 2021 lottery protected first rounder, and the 2023 second round pick we received in the Andre Drummond trade.

This might be less than what Rockets fans were expecting but Russell Westbrook’s value is not nearly as high as you would think. Langston Galloway is a very deadly three-point shooter and would be another great bench piece for the Rockets while Christian Wood is the perfect player for Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets.

He can effectively guard the league’s best centers much better than a Robert Covington and a P.J. Tucker, he can be a traditional center if needed, but most importantly, he can spread the floor and knockdown corner three’s.

Christian Wood is the perfect Houston Rocket in Daryl Morey’s ideal world so giving up a player who doesn’t fit that narrative would not only make the Rockets a better team efficiently, but it would make them a legitimate threat in the West.

For the Pistons’ side of the trade, having both Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin gives you two great, yet injury prone players, and would make the Pistons a shoe in for the playoffs at the very least.

No Andre Drummond this time means that you could start Svi Mykhailiuk and Tony Snell alongside Westbrook and Griffin, helping spread the floor to allow Westbrook to attack the rim like he used to.

This would then mean the Pistons could go with a number of different options at pick #7 in this year’s draft to help fill the last hole in the lineup.

You could draft Wiseman or Okongwu and leave Blake at the 4, slide him to the 5 and take an Obi Toppin, or have Blake at the 5 and Sekou at the 4 and draft an Isaac Okoro or a Devin Vassell to help out the wing depth.

I know this trade is likely very unrealistic but I just a dreaming Pistons fan who would like to be relevant in the Eastern Conference again.

Next: Detroit Pistons: Offseason to-do list