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Russell Westbrook warming to idea of Miami Heat trade

Tuesday 9 July 2019 18:10, UK

Russell Westbrook in action against the Utah Jazz

Russell Westbrook is warming to the idea of leaving Oklahoma City, and the Miami Heat are high on the All-Star point guard's list.

According to multiple reports, Westbrook signed off on general manager Sam Presti taking trade offers.

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The decision comes on the heels of the Thunder shipping 2019 MVP finalist Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for five future first-round picks, Danilo Gallinari and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder received three unprotected first-round picks from the Clippers - 2022, 2024 and 2026 - and two future Miami Heat first-round picks that Los Angeles had acquired: a 2021 unprotected selection and a 2023 lottery-protected pick.

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Presti allowed free agents Alec Burks and Mike Muscala the option of backing out of their contracts after that deal and has held a respectful, open dialogue with Westbrook and agent Thad Foucher regarding the 30-year-old's future with the franchise, ESPN reported.

Westbrook has spent his entire 11-year career in Oklahoma City, averaging 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists while winning the NBA's MVP award in 2017.

Russell Westbrook soars for a dunk against the Dallas Mavericks 2:19
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ESPN reported the Heat and team president Pat Riley moved to the front of the line because Westbrook would approve of a deal to Miami. The Heat used a four-way deal to pull off a sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler, but Riley has some bookkeeping wizardry to do if he wants to add Westbrook to the unexpected offseason haul.

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Draft picks cannot be traded for 30 days after they've signed, meaning first-rounder Tyler Herro is not immediately available. However, the expiring contracts of Goran Dragic ($19.2m) and Meyers Leonard ($11.3m) could boost Miami's standing as a lead suitor.

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on against the Indiana Pacers on March 14, 2019 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana 3:03
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What Riley doesn't have to offer is attractive draft pick compensation, which could beckon the inclusion of a third team in any deal with the Thunder.

Westbrook has four years and $170m left on his contract. The Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and others are also expected to have interest in acquiring Westbrook, according to reports.

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If the Rockets can find the right combination of draft compensation and contracts, a Westbrook deal to Houston would reunite former Thunder team-mates.

The Rockets acquired James Harden, a sixth man in Oklahoma City on a team fronted by Kevin Durant and Westbrook, prior to the 2012-13 season after the Thunder opted not to offer Harden a maximum contract.

Among complications to resolve before that trade could be completed is the contract of Houston's Chris Paul, who is due $38.5m for next season and has three years remaining on his contract.

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