With free agency coming to a close, it appeared that the NBA offseason was becoming fairly quiet. That was until the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to trade All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to expedite the rebuilding the process.
Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for veteran point guard Chris Paul and a pair of first round picks. It was expected that Westbrook would be moved following the Paul George trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, but this deal has huge implications for both sides.
Here are the trade grades:
Houston trade grade: B
There have been several rumblings throughout the offseason that there was a significant amount of tension between Paul and James Harden. In fact, ESPN’s Tim McMahon is reporting that Harden was the “driving force” in convincing the Rockets to move Paul in exchange for a reunion with Westbrook. With Harden clearly wanting to part ways with Paul, the writing was on the wall for the Houston front office to make a move.
The Rockets were clearly looking to make a huge splash this summer after they expressed interest in trading for Jimmy Butler before he ended up in Miami. Westbrook now gets a chance to reunite with Harden after the two had success while playing together in Oklahoma City from 2009 to 2012. Harden has certainly developed into one of the NBA‘s premier ball-handlers, but he may have to take a back seat with Westbrook now joining him in the Houston backcourt. Westbrook is certainly more effective playing on the ball and doesn’t exactly excel shooting the ball from the perimeter these days. The All-Star guard certainly has proved to be very durable over the years, which isn’t exactly something that can be said for Paul over the last few seasons.
The combination of Westbrook and Harden is certainly going to be one of the more aggressive backcourts in the league considering both have no problem putting the ball on the floor. Westbrook may have only shot just 29.0 percent from three, but he’s still a triple-double machine and that shouldn’t change with the move to the Rockets.
Oklahoma City trade grade: A+
It’s really hard not to like what general manager Sam Presti has done over the past week. The Thunder were able to acquire a king’s ransom for George with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and five future first round picks coming back to Oklahoma City. If that weren’t enough, Presti landed two more first round picks in exchange for Westbrook, who also had hinted that he wanted out of Oklahoma City.
Now the Thunder have the potential to maneuver their way up to the top of the NBA draft for several years to come. Presti has definitely sped up the rebuilding process with the boatload of draft picks and his point guard of the future in Gilgeous-Alexander. Paul could prove to be a tremendous mentor to Gilgeous-Alexander, assuming he’s still in Oklahoma City when the 2019-20 season gets underway. At some point next season, the Thunder could elect to move Paul to a contender and acquire more young players or draft picks in the process.
To put this transformation into perspective, Presti has turned George, Westbrook, and Jermai Grant into eight first round picks over the last week. If the Thunder are able to use these picks to move to the top of the draft on multiple occasions, the rebuild could end up being a rather short one.