Takeaways From the Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul Trade
How will Westbrook and Harden fit together?
Whenever a star joins up with another star, the most popular statement to hear is ”there is only one ball”. Never has this saying been truer than with the reunion of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Two high-usage players who have problems with turnovers on one team sounds like a recipe for disaster. However, these two, per reports, wanted to play together, which may be an indication of a desire to make this unorthodox pairing work. Just like with the Chris Paul trade years earlier, bringing in another ball handler will keep Harden fresh for the playoffs, which will also be a positive for Westbrook, who showed signs of slowing down last season.
How the mighty have fallen
It's been a far fall for Chris Paul since the 2015-16 season. The future Hall of Famer has played in fewer than 65 games every season since 2015, which was also the last time he was an All-Star. Paul’s decline as a player is due to his inability to stay healthy for an entire season and his age, both of which have sapped him of his athleticism and made him a shell of his former self. The only question left is what's next for Paul. Will Paul be on board with being on a rebuilding team in Oklahoma City? Will a team step up and trade for his massive contract? I predict that a very expensive buyout is in his future and I'm assuming a very point guard-needy team (probably in Los Angeles) will give him a call to compete for a title one last time.
What's the legacy of this era of Thunder basketball?
Who would have thought that Damian Lillard would be the world ending event that would destroy this era of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball? One (bad?) shot and a Kawhi Leonard phone call caused Sam Presti to start the first real rebuild in over a decade. Now that the end is here, what should we look back on from the OKC era? I choose to remember that lost in all the talk of New York and Los Angeles super teams, it was possible that a small market team in Oklahoma City to build an NBA juggernaut through quality drafting and developing. I'll remember them as a team that was undone through bad luck and a luxury tax rule designed to protect teams like them.
Where does this put Houston in the Western Conference?
The Rockets building the best backcourt in basketball while keeping all of their role players, and adding Tyson Chandler, makes them a threat to win the NBA title. I expect to see a rejuvenated Westbrook who will be out to prove that he's not done and that you can win with him in the lineup. As for Harden, he'll be looking to assert himself in a conference without a Warriors super team standing in his way. While the Lakers and Clippers are finding out how to play with each other, the Rockets will be doing what they do best, shooting 3’s and going one-on-one. This duo will hit the ground running when the season starts.