Last night, groundbreaking news broke that the Houston Rockets had traded for Russell Westbrook. The Rockets gave up Chris Paul and a series of picks for the 8x All-Star, as they felt comfortable giving away valuable assets for a player of Westbrook’s caliber. The Oklahoma City Thunder use this trade to acquire even more picks, already giving them a massive head start on their rebuild. Obviously, this is a franchise-altering trade for both teams, but there are both short and long term effects for each team.
Short Term Effects
Seemingly every contending team in the Western Conference made significant strides this offseason. The Rockets felt the pressure to make a move in order to remain competitive, and made a big splash. Russell Westbrook and James Harden will prove to make a FRIGHTENING duo in the backcourt, but they might not operate together well. For starters, both Westbrook’s and Harden’s playstyle require them having the ball in their hands to be successful. Harden and Westbrook each posted top 15 usage rates in the league this past season, with 39.6% and 30.1%, per NBA.com/Stats. Also, the Rockets’s offensive system will require Westbrook to play off the ball, and he will not fill that role as smoothly as Chris Paul, as he shoots a subpar 29% from three. Luckily for Westbrook and the Rockets, the rest of the roster is filled with veteran shooters, providing floor spacing for both Westbrook and Harden to take defenders off the dribble. If the Rocket’s coaching staff can find an offense that fits the roles of their two superstars, than the Rockets can truly contend this postseason.
On the other hand, this was a great trade for the Thunder. They are now fully accepting the inevitable rebuild phase every team must go through , and embraced it by trading both of their stars this offseasons. The Thunder received promising guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the Paul George blockbuster, who will be the young leader of their team. The Thunder are going to take this season as a chance to evaluate the team they have, and will use their multiple draft picks accordingly.
Long Term Effects
The Rockets are committing themselves to contend for the foreseeable future, as Westbrook and Harden are both under huge contracts. Because of their limited cap flexibility, most of the free agent signings will be veteran minimum contracts. They also gave up two first round picks, and 2 first round pick swaps, so it will be hard for them to build from the draft. However, they now have the most lethal and explosive backcourt in the league, and a very good supporting cast. The Rockets are betting heavily that this trade works out, but if it does, it will be considered a steal.
The Thunder now have their point guard for the years to come, and a grand total of 8 first round picks! Their management understood that Westbrook needed to be traded, and they got valuable assets in return for him. Because of all the picks the Thunder have for the years to come, their rebuilding process will not be as long as most, and they should be back in contention in the coming years. The only remaining task the Thunder have is to find a home for Chris Paul, and the Miami Heat seem to be the most likely destination. The Thunder hit the reboot button, and they made the correct decision.
Both teams did what was best for the situation they were in. The Rockets had to make a big move to remain a contender, and the Thunder had to trade their stars to get started on their rebuild. No matter how the trade pans out, both teams made the best of their circumstances.