76ers Are Technically Winners of the Russell Westbrook Trade
The NBA had yet, another shakeup on Thursday night as another big star is set re-locate within the league. Last week, it was Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who ended up packing up from their respective cities and moving into Los Angeles to join the Clippers. Then, we found out it would only be a matter of time before Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook does the same.
At this point, the Thunder are approaching a re-build. Last week they dealt Paul George, and on Thursday, they got rid of the face of their franchise after eleven seasons. The league knew it was coming, as Westbrook was placed on the trade block last week. For a moment, there was a chance Westbrook could end up with the Toronto Raptors. That deal would fall through, keeping Westbrook out of the East for a moment.
However, there was still a slight chance he could come over to the Eastern Conference as the Thunder weighed out their options. As time went on, the Miami Heat got on the phone and were in search of a deal. It seemed as though they wanted to load up their roster with another star. As we know, the Heat got their hands on former Sixers guard Jimmy Butler two weeks ago. So they were trying to build on top of that addition to get into the conversation of being one of the stronger teams within the wide-open Eastern Conference.
That won't be the case, though. Westbrook has been moved, but he remains out in the West as he was traded to the Houston Rockets. While moves within the West have nothing to do with the Sixers -- in a way, Philly could be considered winners after this move. Why's that, you ask? Simply because the Sixers see one less star in the postseason for next year.
As James Ennis put it earlier in the week: The Sixers could "walk" to the Finals within the East. That's not to say it won't be difficult, but the situation is much easier this time around than it was last season. No Kawhi in Toronto is a massive plus for Philly. Sure, Kyrie Irving is in Brooklyn, and Kemba Walker is in Boston, but we all know that one-man bands don't necessarily get it done by themselves in the playoffs.
Adding Westbrook into the Eastern Conference mix could've been problematic. Especially because Westbrook seems to have Joel Embiid and the Sixers' number. Sure, a matchup between Butler-Westbrook and the Sixers could've been A-plus entertainment, but the Sixers aren't going for the ratings here. They want championships, and they want them now. And as of July, the Eastern Conference looks wide open for the taken.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_