Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook is garnering plenty of trade interest.
The Heat and Pistons have emerged as possible suitors for the Thunder’s star guard, but the Rockets are also in the picture now, according to a report from ESPN, which cites unidentified league sources. One Houston source described its chances of getting Westbrook a “long shot,” but that doesn’t mean it won’t try to make things work.
The Rockets would likely have to orchestrate a complicated multi-team deal to land Westbrook, but it could be worth it, as he has been successful playing alongside their star James Harden in the past. Westbrook and Harden were once both blossoming stars in Oklahoma City and made their NBA Finals debuts with the Thunder in 2012 alongside Kevin Durant — but ultimately fell to LeBron James’ Heat in five games. Neither has been back since.
However, both players have made tremendous progress in the past few years. Westbrook was named the league’s MVP in 2016-17 and has averaged a triple-double for three consecutive seasons. Harden won MVP honors the following season and finished second in the voting three times. He averaged a staggering 36.1 points per game in 2018-19.
Houston has been ambitious in its pursuit of top talent, and ESPN’s report states it might be able to acquire Westbrook without moving Chris Paul, who has three years and $125 million remaining on his contract. Westbrook has $171 million remaining on his current deal.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey reportedly explored moving every player not named Paul or Harden this offseason, including Clint Capela and Eric Gordon. Striking out on Jimmy Butler doesn’t seem to have deterred Houston’s desire to improve.
The Thunder traded Paul George to the Clippers in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and five future first-round draft picks and are already rumored to be discussing where Westbrook could be dealt this summer.
Oklahoma City could be in the beginning phases of a major rebuild while the Rockets are looking to rise to the top of the Western Conference now. If an agreement is reached, both sides could come out better for it.