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The Timberwolves should trade for Russell Westbrook, like, right now

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We have that and more in Tuesday’s NBA newsletter.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

This talk about Russell Westbrook being the worst contract in the league is wild. He’s due $170 million over the next four seasons. Do you mean to tell me that if Westbrook had been a free agent this summer some team wouldn’t have paid him $170 million over four years, if they could have? I don’t buy it.

Of course, that doesn’t disprove the point that Westbrook’s contract is onerous. I’m just skeptical of the scope here, as I expressed in my weekend column on Russell’s future. There is no way, for example, that Westbrook’s contract is worse than that of Andrew Wiggins, who is now due $122 million over four years. And I wonder (as others on the internet have this week) whether there’s a deal to be made there.

Wiggins is young and still has potential to grow. He’s been in a wildly unstable situation in Minnesota all of his career. That’s not meant as an excuse — he’s been a disappointment, full stop. But he hasn’t exactly been groomed to meet his considerable potential. He’s wildly inconsistent night to night. You never know quite what you’re getting with Wig.

Westbrook has realized every bit of his potential to the tune of eight All-NBA teams and an NBA MVP at age 30. You know what you’re getting. It’s not all good (lots of misses, lots of turnovers), but it’s pretty good.

Why wouldn’t the Timberwolves try to get Westbrook for Wiggins? Don’t tell me Westbrook would damage Karl-Anthony Towns’ growth — Kevin Durant won an MVP next to Russ, and Paul George just finished third. Towns needs help getting back to the playoffs, and Minnesota stands a much better chance with Westbrook than Wiggins. The back end of Westbrook’s deal will likely be painful. Every minute of Wiggins’ deal is painful because he’s not helping Minnesota win games.

Why would OKC do it? The salary differential is major (roughly $12 million per year) and the Thunder need to slice down luxury tax bills. Let’s be honest: Wiggins, though he has potential that could theoretically be unlocked by Billy Donovan, helps the Thunder chase lottery balls better than Westbrook. Moving Wiggins in the future would be easier than moving Westbrook because of the salary difference. It opens up a little flexibility the Thunder don’t have now.

We deserve this, NBA. Give us Westbrook in the great white north with a great center and those amazing Purple Reign jerseys.

Necesito Más Monta

Chris Haynes shared some spectacular news on Monday: a dozen NBA teams attended a workout in Vegas featuring none other than Monta Ellis and Amar’e Stoudemire.

Stoudemire has been playing in Israel, but Monta — as far as I can tell — hasn’t played competitive basketball since the Pacers waived him two years ago. Ellis is just 33 years old and doesn’t have that many miles on him. He could absolutely contribute to one of these thin teams looking at him like the Lakers or Warriors. (What a dream for all the real heads in the Bay Area to be able to wear their Monta Ellis jerseys unironically to the new arena in San Francisco next season!)

I wrote wistfully of Monta two years ago when he went unsigned into training camp, and I can’t believe we’re still here. This world is a knotty mess. Let Monta help us make sense of it.

(This newsletter has now asked for a Russell Westbrook trade to Minnesota and an NBA return for Monta Ellis. This is not lost on me.)

Links

I ranked what I consider to be the top seven NBA title contenders. I could see a case to include a couple more West teams and maybe the Nets (if Durant heals miraculously fast) or Celtics (if Danny Ainge can pull off a surprise midseason trade).

Good trade for the Nuggets, getting Jerami Grant for a draft pick. The type of incremental move that could make them a higher ranked contender!

A good timeline of the Brooklyn Nets’ rise from rock bottom to model franchise.

LeBron James will officially be the Lakers’ point guard this year, apparently, which really just means that neither Quinn Cook or Rajon Rondo will start.

Zach Lowe’s free agency winners and losers.

Chris Herring on trading Westbrook.

Are Kawhi, Durant, and LeBron too powerful?

Are you a basketball fan who, like me, found so much to love in the World Cup over the last month? Here’s your NWSL starter kit courtesy of the wonderful Kim McCauley. No teams in California? Hello, Thorns FC! BTW, all hail Ashlyn Harris’ celebratory Instagram story.

Seerat Sohi on how Kawhi understands and wields power. Much respect to Uncle Dennis.

There’s a theory — a rumor? — that Kawhi sabotaged the Lakers by waiting until late on July 5 to decide his destination. I don’t buy it. I think it took that long for him to decide and for the Thunder to work out a Paul George deal with the Clippers.

You’re welcome for this content. Be excellent to each other.