A proverbial bombshell rocked the NBA world recently with Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook requesting a trade per Stadium’s Shams Charania.
This news comes as a shock to some as Westbrook has only played one season as a Rocket. To others, it’s not much of a surprise given their untimely exit in the playoffs. What has added more fuel to the fire are reports of him, per The Athletic’s, Kelly Iko, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick, wanting more accountability from the Rockets organization and his teammate James Harden.
“Westbrook, sources say, has made it known for quite some time now that he would like to see significant changes to the Rockets’ culture. Specifically, his desire for more team-wide accountability, discipline and structure have been the focus of talks with team officials. Throughout the season, Westbrook was the consistent presence who kept Harden accountable and the two close friends had several verbal exchanges that sources described as “tense, but needed.
During a January locker room meeting following a home loss to Portland, Westbrook, who was leading the meeting, went around the room indicating what was wrong and what each player needed to do to fix the losing streak, starting with himself, sources said. When it came to Harden, however, he wasn’t as receptive to criticism as other teammates, sources said.”
What’s worse, Westbrook was not the only Rocket player who was unhappy this past season. Forward P.J. Tucker was a player named in the report as someone who is currently “irate” over his contract situation. Tucker previously made Rockets’ brass aware of his “intent to finish his career as a Rocket for a long time” however, his problem comes from seeing other “‘Three-and-D’ wings around the league receive paydays in less important situations.”
Yet, that’s not all. Several of the Rockets’ key role players all had issues with how they were being utilized this past season. Guard Eric Gordon wanted a “defined role as a starter or sixth man, instead of bouncing back and forth with (Daniel) House.” He also “wanted more consistent usage as either a scorer/creator or a catch-and-shoot option, and was not pleased at his diminished role and importance.”
Next was forward Daniel House who “wasn’t pleased “with his usage and involvement” in the offense, and his January outburst in Atlanta wasn’t an isolated incident of House losing his cool.”
Additionally, guard Austin Rivers was “unhappy with his inconsistent playing time and utilization.” At one point he “reportedly went on an “expletive-laden tirade” after one game in which D’Antoni had called for him to go in, only to change his mind and insert DeMarre Carroll, instead.”
All of this means the Rockets may be forced to make wholistic changes before beginning the 2020-2021 NBA season. If so, they’ll have quite the task at hand with making each of these players happy, if that’s even possible. What may be more realistic right now, is calling other teams around the league to bring in new players who can help them, and their star Harden who is committed to the organization, to win a championship. One of the teams they could call is the Golden State Warriors.
Trade Possibilities for the Warriors and Rockets
At first glance, the Rockets may not want to help the Warriors improve their roster. Especially if they believe they can be competitive with them this season. However, that remains to be seen with the many holes to fill if they do in fact trade either of their superstars. Plus, they don’t currently have a center on their roster.
The Warriors could alleviate some of the Rockets’ issues by using their $17.2 million trade exception which expires this month. The team has the exception from the Andre Igudolada trade with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019.
Using this, two players the team could target are Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker. Given Tucker’s morale currently, it may not be difficult to speak with the Rockets about a swap for him since they may not be looking to shell out such a hefty payday. Especially with their owner Tilman Fertitta possibly looking to cut costs where he can.
On the other hand, Covington is the youngest between the two and may fit with the roster more so moving forward. Especially if the Warriors are keen on adding another All-NBA player via trade involving forward Andrew Wiggins and/or the #2 pick in the 2020 draft. Only being 29 right now, Covington would be able to stay through a transition of the current core and whoever may be drafted or traded for.
Other Potential Trades for Golden State
As of late, the Warriors have been rumored to now be in the market for an All-NBA frontcourt player. The latest reports have been about their inquiry regarding the San Antonio Spurs’ big man LaMarcus Aldridge.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe on his podcast “The Lowe Post”, alongside ESPN NBA Front Office Insider Bobby Marks discussed what it entails for the Warriors to make this work and their feelings on it.
“Someone within the league today texted me, ‘Hey there’s a little bit of buzz about No. 2 to San Antonio for LaMarcus Aldridge and No. 11. And obviously there would have to be salary going out. And my response was, that’s crazy. The Warriors should not do that. You don’t trade the No. 2 pick for LaMarcus Aldridge, and I don’t care if you’re getting No. 11.”
While this trade makes sense for the Warriors and gives them a formidable presence in the frontcourt right now, it would come at a cost for their future. The only two players who financially make sense to send to San Antonio are Wiggins or Draymond Green, given that both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are untouchable.
In the case of sending out Green and the #2 pick, the Warriors would trade one aging star for another and lose their coveted high pick to help build into their future. With Wiggins, the Warriors are giving up two valuable pieces for building into their future for an aging star. One whose contract is also coming to an end. That wouldn’t be the best thing to do if the team wishes to remain competitive in the coming years.
As stated previously, the Warriors trade exception expires this month so it is imperative they utilize it. This may very well be the best way to make the best use of it while making both sides happy in the process.