The Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports. The Rockets will also send an array of draft assets.
Less than a week after netting an historic haul of draft assets in their Paul George trade, the Thunder will add a pile more for absorbing the remainder of Paul’s substantial contract.
Formally, the Thunder will acquire Houston’s 2024 and 2026 first-round picks (both 1-4 protected). They’ll also gain the privilege to swap choices in 2021 (1-4 protected) and 2024 (1-20 protected). Credit Shams Charania of The Athletic for the details there.
The move will put Westbrook in a Rockets lineup alongside James Harden. Those two, of course, began their careers together and even made a run to the NBA Finals with the Thunder in 2012.
The deal also serendipitously puts Paul back in Oklahoma City, a destination he never technically played for but spent significant time in when the then-New Orleans Pelicans temporarily relocated to Oklahoma while the city recovered from Hurricane Katrina.
While Paul is a certifiable star in this league, even at age of 34, the $124 million he’ll earn over the course of the next three seasons is prohibitive, especially to a team such as the Thunder, who are clearly embracing a rebuild.
Early feedback from Oklahoma City media, such as Brett Dawson of The Athletic, suggest the Thunder do plan on retaining and playing Paul this season. Regardless of whether that holds up as the season approaches, the draft assets are the sweetener that justify the financial commitment. Another benefit is that Paul’s deal, identical to Westbrook’s through 2021-22, ends one year earlier than Westbrook’s.
In 58 games for the Rockets last season, Paul averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game. Could a year left to his own devices in OKC – or virtually any other franchise that doesn’t run their offense extensively through one single individual – lead to a rejuvenated campaign?
Houston, no doubt the buyer in this scenario, will add one of the league’s most dominant forces to a lineup that already includes the MVP runner-up. Just how ball-dominant guards Westbrook and Harden fare together, however , remains to be seen.
Westbrook averaged a triple-double for a third consecutive season in 2018-19 but the Thunder flamed out against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first-round of the 2019 postseason.