What’s next for Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder?

PHOTOGRAPH: Keith Allison/Flickr | Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder

The 2016-17 NBA season officially ended for Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder after the Houston Rockets eliminated them in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. However, this could only be the start for the Thunder with their goal to become a legitimate title contender in the post-Kevin Durant era.

As expected, the departure of Kevin Durant gave Russell Westbrook the opportunity to unleash his full potential as one of the best players in the league. This season, he became the first player to average a triple-double since 1962. Westbrook also established the most triple-doubles in a single season with 42 and currently the league’s leading scorer, averaging 31.6 points per game.

Russell Westbrook still undecided to sign new contract extension

Last summer, Westbrook signed a three-year extension worth $80 million with the Thunder. With the new collective bargaining agreement, he’s eligible to sign another contract extension which could possibly be $220 million over five years. In a post-game interview, Westbrook revealed that he’s not yet thinking about signing another extension but said that he loves to stay in OKC.

“That’s something, like I said, I haven’t thought about anything, obviously,” Westbrook said. “Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven’t even thought about that. Obviously, Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.”

When Durant left, Westbrook openly accepted the role as the Thunder’s leader. The 28-year-old believes that being a leader isn’t only about being the best player on the team. Westbrook believes that a leader must be an example on and off the court.

“I think you have to earn the right for people to say that you’re a leader, regardless of how many numbers you put up, how many points … whatever it is that you’re doing. I think you have to show leadership. And I think for me, that’s what I was trying to do every single day — to be able to show the guys that I care about them as a person more than a player, and also want them to improve as a player as well,” Westbrook said.

OKC Thunder offseason plans: Surround Westbrook with quality players

As the season ends for the Thunder, they must now focus on how they can upgrade their roster in the upcoming offseason. The outcome of the NBA Playoffs 2017 showed that the Thunder need at least one more superstar to become a legitimate title contender again. Several NBA superstars are expected to be available on the market this summer.

The Thunder need to improve their frontcourt, especially the small forward position. Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gay will become free agents while Paul George is expected to be available on the trade market. Westbrook can’t carry the Thunder alone and OKC should start making big moves in order to convince him to stay.

Photo courtesy: Keith Allison/Flickr

Video courtesy: Youtube/Ximo Pierto

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