There is turmoil in Houston.
After an offseason of turnover in the organization, which was highlighted by head coach Mike D’Antoni’s departure and longtime GM Daryl Morey stepping down in October, the Rockets look like they’re on the brink of imploding right before our eyes.
Now, reports are surfacing from ESPN that Russell Westbrook and James Harden are not pleased with the direction of the organization and could request a trade.
Sources told ESPN the organization is “fearful” of losing its stars and that it is a “plausible eventual possibility” that the two future Hall of Famers will ask for a trade.
In late October, Houston hired Stephen Silas, the son of legendary coach Paul Silas, a respected NBA assistant coach for nearly 20 seasons, to be the organization’s next head coach.
While Silas has earned his stripes and deserves a head coaching opportunity, it could be possible that Westbrook and Harden are not looking to be coached by a first-year guy, especially at this point in both of their careers.
Both stars are 31 years old and entering the last part of their prime in the league. Despite both players winning MVP awards, neither has won a championship or created a signature moment that will cement their legacy.
It makes sense that both stars may see the writing on the wall in Houston.
According to reports, the Sixers may have an interest in acquiring Harden through trade, and the Clippers and Knicks have been in play for Westbrook.
While any of those options would be interesting, the best places for one of these stars is not on anyone’s radar. It’s not even in this country.
Yes, I’m talking about Toronto.
The Raptors are a team that was one win away from the Eastern Conference finals after losing a top-five player in the league during the previous offseason.
They have young playmakers like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby that are strong pieces to place around a perennial All-Star talent who can score at will.
If they can re-sign VanVleet, who is a free agent, they’ll be in a prime position to be successful in the Eastern Conference again.
We’ve already seen this combination produce a championship with Kawhi Leonard in 2019, even with Anunoby hurt during that playoff run.
Not to mention Westbrook or Harden would be playing for the reigning NBA Coach of the Year in Nick Nurse, and one of the best basketball executives in the entire league in Masai Ujiri.
If there is anyone that can put the pieces together around one of these stars effectively it is Ujiri himself. They may not be able to retain many of their veteran stars like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, or Marc Gasol, but they will have one of the Top 10 players in the game.
It makes the most sense for both of these stars. The Raptors are in a great situation with good young players on the rise, and smart executives who could find a way to make the logistics work.
Let’s also not forget that they play in the Eastern Conference, which is far easier to get through than the loaded Western Conference. The East features four real threats (Miami, Milwaukee, Philly, and Boston). The West features about 8 teams that will be coming for either of these player’s necks if they choose to stay in the West.
Toronto makes the most sense.
If I am Westbrook or Harden I’m trying to force my way up to the North to end my career the right way.
It’s time for these stars to finally solidify their legacies.