• Chandler Harper

What if the Rockets Decided to Trade Russell Westbrook?

What if the Rockets decided to trade Russell Westbrook?

The Houston Rockets now have consecutive second-round exits from the playoffs. Yes, they lost to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, but with so much buzz about the reloaded small-ball Rockets, it was a disappointing outcome.

Houston won Game 1 in what seemed like a sustainable way. The Rockets forced a ton of turnovers and got easy shots on offense. However, with Russell Westbrook playing as a shell of a shell of himself, Houston ultimately had no chance.

It’s fun to propose blockbuster trades and total teardowns. I am not in favor of that at all for the Rockets. Westbrook’s trade value is at an all-time low, and the Rox were very good when he was healthy. There is also likely no deal out there where a team values Westbrook enough to send real, win-now assets out the door.

But for the sake of fun, let’s consider what a Westbrook trade might look like. (For now, we’re ignoring any lingering issues from his quad injury and COVID diagnosis.) This winter Westbrook was playing some of his best, most disciplined, most effective ball of his life.

So let us look at some trade scenarios:

Indiana Pacers

This is the most logical destination for a Westbrook trade for so many reasons. The Pacers ownership is known for how much they value simply being decent, consistent, and avoiding rebuilds. These are all logical expectations too - few superstars want to come to Indiana.

Westbrook can help in all of those manners. One would assume that in the Eastern Conference a team with Westbrook and a few other good players is a lock to make the postseason.

There is more, though. Coach Mike D’Antoni has been tied to the open Pacers gig and is rumored to be the front-runner. D’Antoni’s emphasis on point guard play, starpower, and quick offense could be perfect with Westbrook at the helm.

Indy also makes sense as a trade partner because of Houston and Indiana’s current roster constructions. Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday, and probably even some more guys could all work in a trade and would make a ton of sense in Houston.

Oladipo has some lingering question marks of his own. Indy has a clear log-jam at center. The Pacers aren’t necessarily trading from a position of strength. Plus Houston has Danuel House and a 2022 first as sweeteners.

A good analog to this would be the Kawhi to Toronto trade. San Antonio valued DeRozan more than most. The small market Spurs needed a new star, and rolled the dice.

Sacramento Kings

Sacramento is another situation where a Westbrook deal could make sense, and for similar reasons. The Kings currently own the longest playoff drought in the league, a maligned star in Buddy Hield, and just hired Monte McNair straight from the Houston front office to be general manager.

The fit here is a little clunky with De’Aaron Fox already manning the point guard spot and not being the best floor spacer, but the spacing would still not be terrible. The majority of other 2-4 options are good-very good shooters. But the allure to this deal is creating potentially the best transition offense of all-time with Westbrook and Fox, and also getting Bagley in his ideal role of a rim-running center.

Transition offense if the most efficient offense in the league and the Kings would get a ton of it. The team would also be able to run Fox or Westbrook plus four shooter lineups as well. The boost in transition should be enough to suffice a potential fall in halfcourt offense.

The Kings are likely to want to move off of Buddy Hield, that is another angle that makes this deal more possible. Hield is a good offensive player who is on a huge contract like Westbrook. If the Kings are able to extract one or both of House and the 2022 pick there is a very real chance this deal makes the Kings better in the present and helps boost their future asset pool, a win-win proposition.

From Houston’s side, a deal centered around Buddy makes a ton of sense. Adding a high-volume elite shooter/scorer would boost Houston’s role players that much due to the spacing, but also just boost their high-end offensive ceiling so much. Ben McLemore has seen a ton of success in a great-value version of what Buddy could do next to Harden. If Houston could also push to acquire Holmes they now also add a more than serviceable big on both ends who would also fit great next to Harden.

Another structure with the potential to be win-win.

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