After the Westbrook and Paul trade, now what?

The NBA is still reeling from the blockbuster trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets.

As a reminder, here is who and what were involved in the trade

The Thunder received:

  • Chris Paul
  • 2024 first round draft pick
  • 2026 first round draft pick
  • pick swap rights in 2021 and 2025

The Rockets received:

  • Russell Westbrook

Last evening Shams Charania broke down the protections surrounded the traded picks.

For both these teams, the trade has lead to even more uncertainties.

It’s clear that Sam Presti and the OKC front office felt that after the out-of-nowhere trade request and subsequent deal of Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Thunder’s days of contending, for at least playoff positions in their current state , were over and sweeping roster changes were now, unexpectedly, on the horizon. I don’t think Oklahoma City is done making moves, as their center Steven Adams would be attractive to many NBA teams. A total rebuild starting with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a Danilo Gallinari ( who is on an expiring contract) and the plethora of draft picks they have received from both the George and Westbrook deals are not bad places to have to begin anew. It is a near certainly that more deals are in the immediate future for Oklahoma City.

For the Rockets, it is now a matter of how these two players can co exist. Though they played together previously, that was several years ago and particularly as it relates to Harden, his stature in the league has changed a great deal since that time.

In Harden and Westbrook, the Rockets now have the two players that have been number 1 in the NBA in usage rate over the past few years ( Westbrook was no.1 in 2016-17, while Harden has led the league over the past two seasons). To Westbrook’s credit he seemed to dial it back for a large portion of this past season, which allowed both Paul George and the Thunder to flourish, at least until George suffered a shoulder injury. If Westbrook can approach next season with this mindset and James Harden maybe not have a stretch of games where he dribble the ball 11,000 times, then perhaps there is a chance (however minute it may be) this team does not collapse in on itself this season.

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