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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook
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OKC look to build around Westbrook, but can't rule out trade after Durant exit
Five-time All-Star Russell Westbrook will become a free agent following the 2016-17 NBA season.

AFTER KEVIN DURANT opted to join the Golden State Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder are not expected to be out of the limelight anytime soon as NBA All-Star guard Russell Westbrook enters the final year of his contract.

Free agent Durant decided to part ways with the Thunder yesterday, taking up an offer to link up with Western Conference rivals the Warriors.

Attention now turns to Westbrook, who is set to become a free agent following the 2016-17 season.

The Thunder are reportedly weighing up whether to cash in on five-time All-Star Westbrook, should he not agree to a new deal in Oklahoma City.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti has a history of cashing on prized assets, having traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets in 2012.

Asked if the opportunity to trade Westbrook presented itself, would he feel confident rebuilding with draft picks, given the Thunder’s track record, Presti told reporters:

“I don’t have my head in the sand. I understand all the speculation and things that make the internet go around.

I think this is what Adam Silver had in mind when he said 2016 free agency was going to blow up Facebook. He was kind of a prophet with that. But I would say that anything like that with Russell is hypothetical. Everybody knows how we feel about Russell.

“I think that in regards to our ability to draft and develop, that’s an organisational thing. I think, and I also think it’s a community thing, too, because of the support that our fans and the environment our fans create for a lot of our players to thrive and grow and understand the development process. That’s part of what makes playing in Oklahoma City to me so unique is the fans and their appreciation of the players as people and not just as athletes.”

At this point in time, the Thunder are determined to rebuild around Westbrook, who helped the franchise force a game seven against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

“Russell Westbrook is a force of nature. He is a true leader in the sense that he takes it on. He takes it on, and I think he’ll take this on, as well,” Presti added.

“He has helped establish the standards that we work by, as have Kevin and the other players that have come before us.

“But this is a different situation, and I know that Russell will adjust and adapt to that.”

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