Welp, so much for “nothing’s happening today.”
Once it became clear less than a week ago that the Thunder were prepared to nuke their current roster in favor of a rebuild, the timer on Russell Westbrook’s unceremonious exit from Oklahoma City via trade began counting down faster than ever before. That countdown came to an end on Thursday with this update from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Rumors had been swirling that the Rockets were at the very least interested in making this trade happen, but the idea that Houston was willing to ship off an efficient scorer and passer for someone who essentially exists as his antithesis seemed ludicrous at the time—and to be quite honest, I still don’t believe this happened even now. Nonetheless, it happened and it cost the Rockets quite a lot of draft capital to get it done.
Both sides will at the very least claim that this move worked out rather evenly for everyone involved. For the Rockets, they break up a dysfunctional, albeit talented, guard duo that was two average shooting nights away from leading that franchise past the Warriors in the postseason. The Thunder, meanwhile, now have enough draft picks to be one of the few franchises in NBA history that can promise their fan base a legitimate rebuild without the front office crossing its fingers behind its back.
Where the success of this trade becomes a bit murkier is on the player level. Sure, Woj is reporting that Thunder GM Sam Presti worked with Westbrook and his agent to get him to his preferred destination, and a reunion with Harden, but one has to ask: Did Harden want this? The roster’s makeup might not have been the most enjoyable work environment, but it actually yielded some playoff success. Those OKC teams with Westbrook were just as, if not more, talented and never touched the second round after Kevin Durant left—even when Westbrook basically became buff Oscar Robertson. Will the trade-off in success be worth it?
Then there’s how Chris Paul probably feels being sent off to a much less glamorous tourist destination to play out the final years of his NBA career. Surely he feels slighted about Rockets giving up so much to take on an even worse contract than his own, essentially just get him out of Dodge. That being said, it’s hard to feel bad for the 34-year-old when he’ll be making $100 million as he stews in his anger.