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Houston Rockets: Why the Westbrook trade is the best deal of the off-season

By Anthony Duckett
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a lay up in the fourth quarter defended by Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets and PJ Tucker #17 (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a lay up in the fourth quarter defended by Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets and PJ Tucker #17 (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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The Rockets unloaded Chris Paul’s hefty contract and received a former-MVP in return. Here’s why the trade for Russell Westbrook is the best one of the summer.

Daryl Morey has just pulled off the inevitable. He found a taker for 34-year-old Chris Paul‘s remaining contract of 3 years and $124 million. Under that deal, Paul would have been 36 and making 44 million. In my eyes, that is tied with John Wall for the worst contract in the league. Somehow, Morey was able to flip it, along with some draft picks, and bring add a second former MVP to the Rockets’ roster. Furthermore, I’m convinced this was the best trade of the NBA off-season. I’ll compare this trade to the trades of Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker, as they were the only other All-NBA players to be moved this off-season.

For starters, let’s look at the Anthony Davis trade. The Lakers traded away Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first round picks, including the fourth pick in the 2019 draft. Ball is 21 years old and still on a rookie deal, and someone LA drafted with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. Hart is 24 years old, a former first round pick and a career 36% three point shooter. Brandon Ingram is 21 years old, and a former second overall pick who averaged 18 points and 5 rebounds per night last season. The Lakers sacrificed young assets all on rookie deals and a lottery pick to add Anthony Davis, who is undoubtedly one of the best players in the league. The Rockets, by comparison, did not part with any lottery picks nor any young assets in acquiring Westbrook.

Westbrook’s former teammate, Paul George, was moved from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Los Angeles Clippers last week in a shocking move. The Clippers traded away Danilo Gallinari, who averaged a career best 19.8 points per game on 43.3% shooting from downtown as part of the package to acquire Paul George. In addition, the Clippers also sent away former lottery pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is 21 years old and also still on a rookie deal, in addition to a record number of five first round draft picks. So again, the Clippers traded away a former lottery pick but also five first round picks and a 43% thee-point shooter. By comparison, the Rockets did not send away a young asset or anyone still playing on their rookie deal, or anyone they selected with a lottery pick.

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The Kevin Durant trade from the Golden State Warriors to the Brooklyn Nets was also a big trade, although the Warriors essentially didn’t have a choice. The Nets sent 23 year-old All-Star DeAngelo Russell and a first round pick to the Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal for Kevin Durant. Keep in mind Durant is coming off an achilles injury that severely hampers the remainder of most athlete’s careers. Quite simply, the Warriors lost out on this trade because they lost the best player in the deal in Durant. But even worse, the Warriors were forced to send away 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala in order to make this trade work. Iguodala was one of the best Sixth Men in the league. By comparison, the Rockets acquired the best player in this trade without giving the Thunder any All-Stars or key role players.

Let’s look at the Kemba Walker trade. The Hornets sent away Kemba Walker and got back Terry Rozier along with a swap of draft picks. From the Hornets’ perspective, they lost the best player in the deal whereas from the Celtics perspective, they lost a young, quality role player as Rozier is only 25 years old. Granted, the Hornets were forced to do this as they were surely not going to want to lose Kemba for nothing and the Celtics were forced to do this because they had just lost Kyrie Irving.

Let’s look at what the Rockets sent away to the Thunder. Obviously Chris Paul is an aging player on a bad contract. There had been rumors all off-season about Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker and Clint Capela being dangled in trade talks, and the Rockets were able to get Westbrook without giving away any of these players. I personally thought the Rockets would have include one of them just to get off CP3’s contract, but Morey was able to do the unthinkable and keep Houston’s best role players. Sure, the Rockets sent away several first round picks, but frankly what are those picks going to be worth anyways? The Rockets will be contenders for the foreseeable future so it’s likely those picks will be at the bottom of the first round.

Next. Why the Westbrook trade could bring a significant change in the offense

Daryl Morey is a magician, as I’ve always said. This was by far the best trade of the off-season from the Rockets’ perspective, as they pulled this deal off without having to send away young assets, lottery picks or even any role players. Not to mention they landed the best player in the deal and got rid of one of the two worst contracts in the NBA. Did I just say that?

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