Winners and Losers of Russell Westbrook TradeJuly 16, 2019
It’s a new beginning for the Brodie, as the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul, 2024 and 2026 1st-round picks, and rights to swap first-round picks in 2021 and 2025. The rebuild has continued in Oklahoma City, as Paul George, Westbrook, and Jerami Grant have all been traded within the past week, and there are probably more trades coming as well. This also means that Westbrook is reunited with James Harden, as they played together in Oklahoma City during the early stages of their careers. Both have blossomed into MVP-caliber players over the years, and now join forces once again. Let’s dive into the winners and losers of this blockbuster trade.
I never thought I would see the day where Russell Westbrook wears anything but a Thunder jersey, but he’ll be in Rockets Red this October. It was clear that the Thunder were heading into a rebuilding phase, and dealing Westbrook to Houston still gives him a great chance to contend in the loaded Western Conference. While him and Harden are very iso-dominant players, I think this will still be a great fit for Westbrook. The one part of Westbrook’s game you can count on is him getting to the paint at will, as he can be a freight train on the court. When he drives, he’s bound to have multiple defenders slide into the paint to stop him. Here’s where the difference of teams factor in: in OKC, Westbrook had Paul George and Jerami Grant as his only reliable options from three, and neither of those players even shot 40% from 3-point land last season. In Houston, Westbrook can dish the ball to shooters like Harden, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Danuel House that are more consistent from beyond the line, and big man Clint Capela is always an option in the paint if left open. It’ll be interesting to see if coach Mike D’Antoni will have Westbrook shoot more 3’s in his system or if he’ll be a main ball distributor, but he will definitely take some offensive pressure off of Harden, which was much needed in Houston. A change of scenery was necessary for Russ, but he finds himself in a good spot in H-Town.
Oklahoma City Thunder
While this present roster does not look intriguing whatsoever, the Thunder’s future is looking very bright. Chris Paul probably won’t play a game for the Thunder, which could mean that even more future assets come the Thunder’s way. They’ve stockpiled so many first-round picks through these three trades, and general manager Sam Presti deserves a lot of credit for getting as much value as he could for PG, Westbrook and Grant. As of now, the Thunder have two good point guards in Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a nice wing player in Danilo Gallinari, and a solid big man in Steven Adams. Some of those players might not be on the Thunder’s roster come opening night, but Shai looks like a very promising player after a stellar rookie season with the Clippers. It’s probably going to be a rough couple of seasons in OKC, but if they hit on some future draft picks, we could very well see them back in contention soon.
I’m considering Adams a winner in this trade solely based off of the Thunder’s direction. It’s clear that the Thunder are rebuilding, and I believe that, along with CP3, that Adams is the next man out. The Thunder could probably get a good return for him, as he has two years and about $50 million remaining on his contract. I’m pulling for the Atlanta Hawks to make a move and trade for him, as it would be a perfect fit for Adams. The Hawks are a team full of shooters but could use a big body to set screens, protect the rim, and grab rebounds, and Adams is elite at all three areas mentioned. The Hawks have the contracts and assets to make it work, so it’s possible. Either way, Adams doesn’t have much of a future in OKC and should be dealt to a contending team sooner or later.
Chris Paul (for now)
There were rumors flying around once the Rockets’ season ended that CP3 and James Harden were having chemistry issues and couldn’t co-exist, and now it seems plausible that those rumors were true. There aren’t many point guards that have accumulated the accolades that Chris Paul has over the years, but the notion that Paul might not be the best teammate is a burden he might have to carry on wherever he goes. Paul now finds himself (as of now) in Oklahoma City, a team that is nowhere near playoff contention in a loaded Western Conference and is building for the future. Paul probably doesn’t have a whole lot of years left in him, and his championship hopes are dwindling year after year. He certainly won’t get that achievement in OKC, but there are other destinations that may allow him to still hunt for a ring. One that comes to mind is Miami, who reportedly is his preferred destination. The Heat just brought in Jimmy Butler and have plenty of depth surrounding him to be a playoff team. They could spare a little depth and some contracts (an ideal package would be centered around Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters) as well as future picks to trade for an elite ball distributor in Paul, and the Heat would find themselves as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference instead of a team that isn’t quite a championship contender. If CP3 stays in OKC this year, he is a loser in this trade, but if he can find his way out of Oklahoma City, then he becomes a winner.
If the Western Conference wasn’t tough enough before, now it’s even tougher with James Harden and Russell Westbrook teaming up. The Rockets once again assert themselves as one of the top teams in the West, which looks even more dominant than last year. You have teams like the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors, Spurs, Trailblazers, Jazz, and Nuggets looking to make the playoffs once again, as well as teams like the Lakers, Kings, and Pelicans fighting to make it back into the playoffs next year. There is no true favorite to come out of the West, and anything can happen over the course of an 82-game season. It is sure to be a Wild, Wild, Western Conference next season.
All photos courtesy of Sports Illustrated