The NBA offseason has been nothing short of exciting. Stars are moving all around the league which looks like it will give it much more parity moving forward. This further proves that the NBA has THE most fun offseason and it isn’t close.
The news broke last night that the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Russell Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul and a heavy draft haul.
- Rockets Receive: Russell Westbrook
- Thunder Receive: Chris Paul, 2024 1st Round Pick, 2026 1st Round Pick, Pick Swaps in 2021 and 2025
Before I dive into the winners of this deal and some of the backstory on it, I just want to say that I, Michael Hotard, called it. As soon as the news broke that OKC tried to ship Russ and Paul George to Toronto which was rejected, my first instinct was the Rockets.
They could afford him by moving Chris Paul which we knew was coming. They aren’t in rebuild mode meaning they would be willing to take on another large contract. Looking around the league, teams either wouldn’t have the capital to make a trade for someone like Westbrook, didn’t have the cap room or wouldn’t be willing to trade the capital they did have. This deal made the most sense of any other team, except for maybe Miami.
The Winner of the Deal
The Thunder are being declared the big winner of the deal and that is probably fair. Chris Paul is a great floor general who can keep them competitive, but the real kicker is the draft picks.
Oklahoma City can instantly start rebuilding after they liquidated their two biggest stars in George and Westbrook for a ton of draft capital. They now hold 7 first rounders because of those two guy alone.
Most look at the Rockets as the loser because Westbrook is going to get you to the playoffs, but he will shoot you out the playoffs. I don’t see the Rockets being better come postseason. I do see them notching another high seed, but ultimately falling short.
The real reason I can’t call them a loser in this is because they dumped Paul for another star who is much less of a locker room distraction. Russ is hard nosed and set in his ways, but his teammates have given him nothing but praise over the years. Unlike Paul, who has made unwanted noise of being a bad teammate in his last two stops.
Russ and James Harden obviously played together in OKC for a while so I am curious to see how this works the second go round.
Both guys are effective when they dominate the ball. Harden is obviously light years ahead of Westbrook offensively. If Harden is taking a breather, having Westbrook run and gun is a great option to have. On the flip side, Westbrook is light years ahead of Harden on the defensive end.
With both on the court, how they co-exist is the big question. You would much rather have Harden as your primary handler because he is more efficient. The problem is Russ is terrible playing off the ball. He would need to correct that and learn how to hit open jumpers consistently.
This pairing just puts another notch in the belt of excitement for the upcoming season.
The End of an Era in OKC
If there is one massive what if in sports that I love talking about, it is the Thunder. If the trio of Westbrook, Harden and Kevin Durant stay together, what are we saying about them?
In 2012, this team looked like it was on the brink of a dynasty and then Harden left to fulfill his own role as a star. You can’t fault a guy for that. We already know the Durant story.
The real question is are we talking about the Golden State Warriors in the same breath we are today if that group stays put? That could have been an absolute golden rivalry for the playoffs every single year.
- Westbrook, Harden and Durant vs Curry, Thompson and Green
That is a slobber knocker I would have loved to see. Westbrook leaving officially ends the beginning era of Oklahoma City Basketball. He was the last standing piece of the dynasty that could’ve been.
As a sports and NBA fan, it always leaves that bitter sweet taste in your mouth.
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