After trading for Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder could be the Warriors’ biggest challengers in the West for the 2017-18 season. Whether or not OKC’s new “Big Three” of Melo, Paul George and Russell Westbrook lives up to the hype, one question will loom on Thunder fans’ minds all year.
Will this superstar trio last one-year, or will George and Westbrook re-sign and create a dynasty that could potentially outlast the Warriors?
Both stars offered some encouraging thoughts at Thunder Media Day on Monday. For months, reports have stated George will opt out of his contract next summer and sign with the Lakers. But so far, he sees Oklahoma City as “somewhere I can call home for years.”
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) September 25, 2017
Those must be tough words for Lakers president Magic Johnson, who already paid a $500,000 fine out his own pocket for tampering with George. Or maybe Magic is behind all of this.
Westbrook, who also holds a player option for the 2018-19 season, reiterated he wants to stay loyal to the Thunder, who drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2008.
— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) September 25, 2017
George and Westbrook may just be saying the “right” things. No athlete in his right mind will come to media day telling reporters he wants out. Oklahoma City may not be a prime free-agent destination for athletes with their mind on big markets, but this offseason the front office has shown a commitment to winning without giving up any significant assets. They kept Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Patrick Patterson while bringing in two stars to play alongside an MVP. OKC isn’t such an unattractive destination anymore.
The Thunder will remain sizable underdogs to the Warriors for the next two seasons. But by 2019-20, the Warriors will have difficulty re-signing Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry will be hitting the end of his prime. Westbrook and George are smart enough to realize that, even if they can’t get past the Western Conference Finals the next two years, they’ll be hard-pressed to find a better situation anywhere else. And by sticking together, they could get their chance to run the NBA down the road.