SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 25: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets reacts after he … [+]
Back in July, in one of the most shocking and exciting trades of the offseason, the Rockets dealt Chris Paul and a gaggle of draft picks to OKC in exchange for former MVP Russell Westbrook.
It was a fascinating roll of the dice by GM Daryl Morey.
James Harden and Westbrook have won two of the last three MVP’s. It’s just the fourth time a duo has played together after both players won an MVP award within the previous three seasons. In addition, Westbrook and Harden have both finished top-10 in MVP voting in each of the past five seasons, and they entered the 2019-20 campaign alongside LeBron James as the only players to have averaged at least 25.0 points, eight assists and six rebounds per game over the past five seasons. Lastly, via Rockets PR, Westbrook and Harden are two of the five players in NBA history to have led the league in scoring and assists at least once during their careers. The other three Tiny Archibald, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson.
Yet, less than 40 games into the grand experiment, rumors are swirling that Houston is considering moving on from Russell already. On his podcast this past Thursday, Ryen Russillo of The Ringer, stated that he believes Morey is open to shopping Westbrook.
“Is Daryl Morey actively calling people, saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got to dump Westbrook?’ Well, of course, he wouldn’t do it that way,” said Russillo. “But there are people who believe Westbrook is available and that Daryl knows, ‘I’ve got to figure something out here.’ I think Westbrook is available. We can talk about semantics. Of course, Daryl Morey would trade anyone if he thought it made his team better. Of course, he would trade Westbrook if he could get off of that long-term money if he thought the assets, the sum of the parts was better than having somebody that’s considered a top-10 player.”
To acquire Westbrook, the Rockets sent OKC CP3 (and his onerous contract), but also had to give up first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, pick swaps in 2021 and 2025.
It’s also crucial to note that Westbrook is earning $38.5 million this season and a whopping $132.7 million over the next three years.
- 2020-21 (age 32): $41.4 million
- 2021-22 (age 33): $44.2 million
- 2022-23 (age 34): $47.1 million
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 19: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets is restrained by … [+]
Furthermore, Westbrook has already celebrated his 31st birthday. He’s been a player that has relied on his athleticism throughout his career. His ability to blow by defenders and violently explode toward the basket has been vital to his success. As he ages, and that unmatched athleticism begins to fade, it’s hard to envision him transitioning successfully to the next stage of his career.
Never an efficient scorer, Westbrook’s numbers have been trending in the wrong direction in recent years. Last season, he shot 42.8% from the floor, only 29% from 3-point territory, and a career-worst 65.6% from the free-throw line. Per Basketball-Reference, he became just the fourth player in NBA history to attempt more than 20 shots per game and yet post an eFG% below 47%.
This season, he’s shooting 42.6% from the floor and a putrid 23.8% from downtown. He’s on pace to become the first player ever to attempt more than five 3-pointers a night, yet convert less than 25% of those attempts.
In addition, the Rockets are averaging 109 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the court, whereas they are scoring 119 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the bench.
Thus, considering Daryl Morey’s well-known willingness to wheel-and-deal, it’s certainly not a stretch to assume he’d happily part with Westbrook at the right price. However, the Rockets are “all-in” this season, so it’s not as if they want to dump Russ solely to clear his salary off their books. And they absolutely wouldn’t be willing to attach future assets to do so. So, the question now is what would another team be willing to part with to construct a deal that benefits both parties.