Last night, the NBA shockwaves continued to rumble as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets completed a deal that sent Chris Paul to OKC and Russell Westbrook to Houston. Westbrook became reunited with his ex-teammate James Harden. The Rockets also surrendered some future draft picks in 2024, and 2026, and pick swaps with OKC in 2021 and 2025. The Westbrook era in OKC comes to an end as GM Sam Presti essentially has pushed the red “reset button in OKC.” Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey continues his “starstruck” mindset continues by pulling the trigger for this move. He knew Chris Paul’s time in Houston was over after CP3 went at Harden in the Western Conference Semifinals this past season as they loss to the Golden State Warriors at home in Game 6. Russell, entering his 11th season, still has a good
bit left in the tank. Will this combination work in Houston? I’m not sold on it. Both players led the league in usage rates in the 2018-2019 season. Now, they’re both on the same roster. This could very well be an accident waiting to happen. The Rockets are now essentially “cap-strapped” as the financial guru’s will tell you in any sport. Houston flipped one huge contract for another and they’ll now be juggling Westrbrook’s remaining 4 year deal, Capela’s deal, and Harden’s extension so you can effectively count them out of top tier free agents for the next 3-4 seasons. Some analysts are gutsy enough to think this combination is going to work and they’re going to give the Lakers and Clippers a real go to represent the Western Conference. Before you go that far, let’s look at a few areas on the Rockets.
1. Do they have a true 3? Right now, if the season began today, the starting 5 would be Westbrook, Harden, PJ Tucker, Kenneth Faried, and Clint Capela. The bulk of your scoring will be coming from your backcourt because positions 4-5 are offensive and injury liabilities. Your best players off your bench are Nene and Gerald Green. Lack of
depth come playoffs are where you lose out to deep teams like the Lakers, Clippers, and even the Utah Jazz whom all have deeper second units.
2. Is Mike D’Antoni the best coach to lead this roster moving forward? GM Daryl Morey made initial headlines when he refused to grant D’Antoni an extension and wanted him to play out his deal this upcoming season. Now, we know Westbrook and Scott Brooks
didn’t always see eye to eye in OKC. However, is D’Antoni going to be the peacemaker when those strifes arise between Harden and Westbrook? Believe me, they will. I’m not
so sure. Ready for this prediction? D’Antoni will not be the coach in Houston past November. I think he barely makes it a month with the team. It will be a struggle to coach the two players who led the league in usage rates last season. Not even would many
legendary coaches of times past would want to deal with the potential mess coming.
3. Is this a team built to go deep? As a fan, your starting 5 is one of your biggest keys to success. Faried, Capela, and PJ Tucker are solid defenders when healthy. That will be one of Houston’s biggest concerns is Russ’s durability. He has to tone down the wreckless abandon speed he goes to the rim after having knee surgeries. Learn from
Derrick Rose and see what he has had to do in his aging career. This move was primarily made to clear the deck in Houston and improve. The Thunder are
now officially under construction for the next 3-5 years as they start from scratch. This may not be over yet. Look for OKC to at least inquire if any team is interested in Chris Paul so they can get out from that contract and move forward with better roster options.
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