The Oklahoma City Thunder traded away Russell Westbrook to Houston in exchange for Chris Paul and future first-round draft picks late Thursday night, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This reunites the star guard with James Harden and the Rockets.
According to Spotrac, Houston now absorbs Westbrook’s 5-year, $206 million contract. This equates to a $41 million salary annually, but only $38.5 million next season. This puts Houston way over the maximum cap space, which will lead to a substantial luxury tax.
Houston now has two triple-double machines on the payroll. Westbrook averages 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game, while Harden is the better scorer at 36.1 points per contest. He adds 6.6 boards and 7.5 dimes on average, as well.
Here’s how the Rockets roster looks at the moment, as well as their Western Conference playoff chances.
Houston Rockets Roster & Starting Lineup After Russell Westbrook Trade
*Notates expected starter
C: Clint Capela*, Isaiah Hartenstein, Dyonta Davis
PF: PJ Tucker*
SF: Danuel House Jr.*, Gerald Green, Gary Clark
SG: James Harden*, Eric Gordon, Michael Frazier, William McDowell-White
PG: Russell Westbrook*, Austin Rivers, Chris Chiozza, Shamorie Ponds, Chris Clemons
It’s hard to argue against Houston’s backcourt as one of the best in the entire NBA, let alone the Western Conference. Westbrook and Harden combine for 59 points a game, whereas Gordon and Rivers provide excellent backup options.
Where Houston may run into problems is with the rest of the conference in terms of size. The Rockets will present the undersized P.J. Tucker at the four. While Clint Capela is an effective force inside (16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds a game), he is only one man to counter the likes of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins of the Lakers.
As this current juncture, the Rockets look to be a less efficient version of the Golden State Warriors. While Harden is an effective shooter at just under 37 percent from deep, Westbrook cans less than 30 percent of his. Meanwhile, both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson bury well over 40 percent of their 3-point attempts.
Rockets’ Russell Westbrook-James Harden Pairing Latest NBA Star Duo
On one end of things, Houston needed to make a move like this, as Harden and Westbrook helped form the Thunder team that made the NBA Finals in 2012. However, the Rockets are now just another team in a glut of NBA squads rife with superstar duos.
The Brooklyn Nets combined Kevin Durant with Kyrie Irving. The Clippers teamed Kawhi Leonard with Paul George. The Lakers finally made LeBron James and Anthony Davis a thing.
With the Lakers and Clippers addressing offseason needs, as well as the Nuggets and Trail Blazers still presenting formidable tasks, Houston’s reach for Westbrook may not be enough. Against some of these teams, there’s a significant schematic disadvantage.
The size one has already been explained with the Lakers. Both Leonard and George can neutralize Westbrook and Harden defensively. Just from the start, Houston appears to be the third-best team in the conference even with Thursday’s trade.
In addition, they had to spend an arm and a leg, while Portland has naturally grown Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum within their system. Even if this combination works, Houston’s move reeks of desperation.