Thunder trade Russell Westbrook to Rockets: Analyzing Oklahoma City’s rebuild

The Thunder roster underwent a complete overhaul in less than a week.

Oklahoma City completed its third major recent trade when it sent Russell Westbrook to the Rockets on Thursday in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul, according to a report from ESPN.

Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder sent away this summer. They moved Paul George — who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19 — to the Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

The Thunder then sent forward Jerami Grant to the Nuggets for another first-round pick.

In the blink of an eye, the Thunder went from a team that seemed to have championship aspirations to one entering a rebuild. Oklahoma City finished 2018-19 with a 49-33 record, had two stars on its roster long term and some solid surrounding talent around them, including Grant, Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder.

George, however, forced the Thunder’s hand after he reportedly asked to be dealt in hopes of teaming up with Kawhi Leonard and the pair ended up together in Los Angeles.

After that trade, the Thunder needed to move in a different direction and they did quite well for themselves.

Oklahoma City acquired eight first-round picks over the last week and it should have the opportunity to draft plenty of young, controllable players to replenish its rotation. The team could also elect to package some of those picks in a deal for a different star, should one become available.

But, that’s not all the Thunder added. Gilgeous-Alexander is a promising guard with plenty of upside. He could develop into a more than adequate replacement for Westbrook, with a much better contract.

Gallinari is a reliable 3-and-D player on an expiring deal. If the Thunder elect to hold onto him, he’ll be a consistent contributor. If not, there’s a good chance they can flip him for another pick or young player.

Paul, meanwhile, is a nine-time All-Star who still provides value as a scorer and distributor, despite the massive amount of money remaining on his contract (three years, $124.1 million). He could still receive interest on the trade market and Oklahoma City could receive additional assets if it decides to move him again.

Despite losing some of the league’s biggest names, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has set his team up to be competitive in the future.