Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul trade: Rockets send flurry of picks to Thunder in point guard swap
Two of the league's top point guards are changing places in a blockbuster deal
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Houston has traded two first round draft picks and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 in exchange for Westbrook.
Bobby Marks of ESPN also reports that the 15 percent trade kicker as part of Westbrook's contract will be voided.
The Miami Heat had also been in contention for Westbrook's services, but both the Heat and Thunder reached a stalemate in recent days due to Miami's reluctance to include their younger players in a trade package.
The trade reunites Westbrook with James Harden, with whom he played during their early years with the Thunder from 2009 until 2012 until Harden was traded to the Rockets prior to the start of the 2012-13 season.
While Westbook and Kevin Durant's relationship has been considered as a strained one over the year, that was not the case when Harden and Westbrook were teammates. The Rockets guard spoke of his fondness for his former teammate during an interview a couple of years ago.
Via Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:
"Yeah, of course," Harden said. "I think if all of us had an opportunity to play with a guy like that, you'd love playing with him because he'll run through a wall for you.
"Every night he brings it and he wills his team to win. He literally has to do everything. I think we can all appreciate the passion he has for the game and the love that he has. Like I said, he's a joy to watch, just because of the passion and the aggression he has. That's what makes him who he is."
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta spoke of the blockbuster trade, thanking Paul for his two years in Houston.
The Rockets came up just short of their ultimate goal over the past couple of years -- a championship. Despite startling regular season success, including a No. 1 seed in 2018, Houston came up a game short of the NBA Finals in 2017-18 and were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors for the second consecutive year in the 2019 NBA playoffs. They'll now attempt to contend for a title with the former MVP duo of Harden and Westbrook.
As you would expect, this move had an impact on the projections for both the Thunder and the Rockets as we move closer to the start of the 2019-20 campaign as Sportsline data scientist Stephen Oh revealed following the announcement of the trade.
Oh's model has not historically valued Westbrook's impact on winning basketball, so the Rockets differential is not a big surprise. But his model also sees Paul's pass-first style and on-court leadership as being particularly impactful to a young Thunder roster.
While Houston will be the bigger story in all of this, there's a major storyline when it pertains to Paul and Oklahoma City. Before Oklahoma City had the Thunder, they played as the host city for the New Orleans Hornets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Hornets spent the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons in Oklahoma City.
Paul commented on how much he enjoyed playing in Oklahoma City when he returned to play as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014, via Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman.
And don't worry, Thunder fans -- the team is not in rebuilding mode. Although they've unloaded their two All-Star players in Westbrook and Paul George, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that the team plans to compete with a Paul-led Thunder squad.
Paul will now finally return -- and possibly end his career in Oklahoma City.
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