By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Danny Ainge's competition for finding another All-Star just got a little tougher on Thursday following the news that Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook has agreed to an multi-year extension.
The 6-foot-3 guard was set to become to become a free agent in the summer of 2017, but his new pact with OKC will push that timetable back by at least one year. Westbrook will get a multi-million dollar raise for the 2016-17 season in his current deal and will be under contract now through the 2017-18 season. He also has a player option for the 2018-19 season as part of the extension, but odds are that he will opt out at that point since he'll be eligible for an even larger max deal after accumulating 10 years of NBA experience.
Since Westbrook was widely rumored to be a potential trade option for the Celtics next season after Kevin Durant departed for Golden State, it's fair to wonder just how this new deal will impact Boston's upcoming team building plans. Here are a few thoughts on that subject:
1. Westbrook's new deal probably means he isn't going anywhere next season
While Thunder GM Sam Presti could still technically deal him six months after Westbrook signs his extension (next February), let's be realistic about this possibility. Barring a complete collapse by the Thunder in the Western Conference next season, Presti's top option is retaining one of the top players in the league long-term. Westbrook will be more of a fan favorite than ever in OKC this year after agreeing to this extension following Durant's departure. He also wouldn't have signed a new deal if staying for the long haul was not a possibility. Put these factors together with Westbrook's quotes about loyalty from his press conference on Thursday and it's fair to connect the dots and assume Westbrook's off the trade block for the Celtics in the short-term.
2. The 2017 free agent crop just got thinner with added competition
Westbrook was one of the headliners of next summer's free agent crop and from afar, he was probably one of the few players on that market with a realistic shot of switching teams. This deal not only takes away that possibility, but the Celtics could be forced to fight off another free agent suitor in Oklahoma City for some of the top players on the market. Westbrook's a better player than anyone the Celtics have on their roster currently and Blake Griffin, another Boston trade target that's set to become a free agent in 2017, played his college ball in Oklahoma. If Griffin decides to leave the Clippers, OKC will have the max salary cap space to make a run at the power forward.
3. Any Celtics dream of trading for Westbrook may be dead for the long-term too
I've already engaged with multiple people about this topic, as some believe the extension is a sign that the Celtics should double down on their offers to acquire the guard since he's under another year of team control now. Here's the problem with that idea: While it may be correct in principle, the realistic truth about the situation is this extension is about more than a pay raise for Westbrook for next season. It's a signal he wants to stay in OKC, assuming that Presti could put the right team around him.
The Thunder are not going to attract anyone of note to OKC without Westbrook in place, so you can bet they aren't going to trade Westbrook unless it's as a last resort. If that happens, it'll be the summer of 2017 at the earliest and you can bet it'll only be for a king's ransom. Westbrook is the savior now for the Thunder following Durant's departure and they won't be dealing him unless he wants to leave. Based on Thursday's comments, that won't be anytime soon.
With this in mind, holding out any hope for landing Westbrook before the summer of 2018 is a dangerous proposition. The Celtics still have options up their sleeves for the next season, but acquiring Westbrook probably isn't one of them any longer.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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