FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook celebrates following a dunk during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, in Oklahoma City. A source with direct knowledge of the situation says the Thunder have reached a new deal with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. The two sides have agreed on a new three-year contract worth $85.7 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, because the team had not announced the deal. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

In this Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook celebrates following a dunk during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, in Oklahoma City. A source with direct knowledge of the situation says the Thunder have reached a new deal with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. The two sides have agreed on a new three-year contract worth $85.7 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, because the team had not announced the deal. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

In light of Kevin Durant’s now infamous departure from Oklahoma City to team up with the Golden State Warriors, many believed that co-star Russell Westbrook would be headed for richer pastures as well once his contract ended after next season. Rather than play the waiting game, Oklahoma City and Westbrook agreed to a two-year extension late last week which will keep the all-star lead guard in town until 2019 but could end a year sooner if the 27-year-old exercises a built-in player option. The contract extension not only keeps Westbrook put but also it will pay him max money every year for potentially three seasons worth $85 million. Early summer rumors penciled Westbrook into several teams from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Boston Celtics. With suitors everywhere and a former MVP teammate now playing elsewhere, was Westbrook right to agree to an extension? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
 
Riley: Westbrook could have waited a season and gone to any team he chose and been paid top dollar. Money isn’t the issue in this debate as much as where does he have the best chance to win. The Thunder already had a solid team even without Durant, so Westbrook opting to sign for an extension shouldn’t be a shocker. With Westbrook back, he can team with big men Enes Kanter and Steven Adams to form a tough trio. When you sprinkle in role players like Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and rookie center Domantas Sabonis then Oklahoma City’s roster becomes an intriguing one. The Thunder were just one win shy of a Finals appearance, and although a major component for the team is now elsewhere, Westbrook’s re-signing should guarantee another playoff appearance next season.
 
Green: We’re not just talking about playoff appearances here, we’re talking about championships because that’s what Durant will definitely be competing for next season. Oklahoma might be good enough to make it back to the postseason but how much noise will they make once they get there? A solid group headlined by Westbrook won’t be enough to bring a title to the Midwest unless OKC has some more moves in store. As for this three-year contract deal, I believe it was just Westbrook’s way out of being traded this summer. He knew there was no way OKC was going to allow him to play out his final year and risk him leaving via free agency next summer. Not after what Durant just did. They got burnt once and wasn’t going to let it happen again. If Westbrook didn’t sign some kind of contract extension, he probably would’ve been traded to whomever offered OKC the best in return, and the fiery guard may have ended up on some team in a city he doesn’t want to be in. So instead, he signed a three-year deal with an option to enter free agency on the third year of the deal. That essentially buys Westbrook one more year in OKC, something he wanted all along.

In this June 1, 2016, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook speaks during a news conference at the team’s practice facility in Oklahoma City. A source with direct knowledge of the situation says the Thunder have reached a new deal with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. The two sides have agreed on a new three-year contract worth $85.7 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, because the team had not announced the deal. (Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP, File)

Riley: Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti has been one of the most innovative minds in the NBA for the last decade and it was clear that Westbrook trusted him to be able to build a competitive roster around him. The NBA cap is expected to jump up again next summer and the plethora of solid role players not only insures that OKC will be in contention but it also gives the team trade chips in case it wants to try to retool on the fly during the season. Considering that marquee players like Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson were all drafted by Presti, I have no doubt that the Thunder GM can find and filter another great team after Durant’s departure. Yes, Westbrook could’ve ventured to any team he wanted after next season but there’s only a handful of NBA general managers who can match the wits and suavity that Presti brings to the table.
 
Green: We know that Presti can draft players and construct teams to an art but you don’t find star players like Durant and Harden just laying around every draft. The Celtics would’ve given Westbrook a prime opportunity to unite with a prestigious organization and compete instantly for a Finals appearance. Westbrook was wise to only sign a two-year extension as I can easily see him entering into the market after the 2017-2018 season because he won’t be realistically competing for any type of championship as the lone superstar in Oklahoma City. He may even be traded next summer because OKC will know that he can opt out in 2018, putting the franchise in the same situation they had to deal with this summer. This deal Westbrook signed is just a one-year guarantee for him to show the world what he can do as the main guy in OKC. After 2017, we may not see him in Oklahoma City again.  

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk