Houston Rockets: Evaluating 5 theoretical trades for the 2021 season
By Kurt Olson
Realism: Going out with a bang, we arrive at the chaos of a theoretical Russell Westbrook trade. Make no mistake, if the Rockets are going to trade Russell Westbrook, it could very well look something like this, even if with different names.
The fact of the matter is, Westbrook’s contract is not pretty, as he will be in the high 40s of millions per year by the time he is a handful of years away from retirement. This means that the Rockets’ best chances of trading him are in a crazy three-team deal where he goes to a team that is miserable and looking for a big name.
Is this particular trade realistic? Do the Rockets even want to trade Russell Westbrook? Exactly what do the Knicks want to do about their situation? Is Karl-Anthony Towns ready to leave Minnesota? It is considerably difficult to answer any of these questions concretely.
Because of the sheer magnitude of this trade, the safest assessment of it is that it is unrealistic. If you want to make it closer to realistic, add some combination of picks to the Timberwolves and Knicks.
Grade: Tackling this one is tricky, but for starters, the Knicks immediately improve, especially if they gain any valuable picks. Despite his disappointing playoff performance, Russell Westbrook is still much better a player than Julius Randle, and Danuel House Jr. is comparable enough if not superior to Elfrid Payton.
If they do nothing, the long-term effect of this trade is dismaying with Westbrook’s contract. But if they make a similar short-term move for another star or several good role players, the Knicks could find themselves set up to compete at a much higher level than they have been for a few years.
For the Timberwolves, the effectiveness of this trade depends on a few things: how they feel about Karl-Anthony Towns and what kind of picks they would receive.
If the Timberwolves are ready to move on from Towns and would receive a couple of first-round draft picks, this deal would not be half-bad for them. They would receive two above-average players in Julius Randle and Eric Gordon and would be set up for potential other trades for assets or another star.
If the Timberwolves have no plans to move Karl-Anthony Towns, however, they do not do this deal even if they are offered two first-round picks.
For the Rockets, this trade’s effect depends on where you fall on Westbrook. If you believe KAT is superior to Westbrook and would be a better fit with Harden, this trade might work for you. The acquisition of Elfrid Payton would also supply the Rockets with a point-guard to help fill the void in that spot left by Russ.
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If you think Towns is the lesser of two options compared to Westbrook, then there is no way you want the Rockets to give up this much to get him and a player who is nowhere near as talented as Russ.
Frankly, moving Russ would mean the Rockets likely want to pair a star they view as better to compete with Harden for a championship.
As talented as Towns is, he probably would not be enough to help the Rockets get over the hump.
KAT is on a better contract and is younger than Westbrook, so this trade would possibly be better for the Rockets in the long-term. But if their goal is to win a championship by trading Russ for KAT, they would likely be disappointed.
For each team, this trade requires unique and specific goals to be effective. While not exactly a disaster for any of the three, it also does not have a positive result for them either.
Such a wild trade is difficult to assess, but when broken down, a C+ is likely most appropriate for this trade.
This offseason should be an interesting one for the Rockets
You can expect to see a broad spectrum of proposals in any offseason from Houston fans. From blow-it-up bombshell trades to overtly one-sided trades to legitimately possible trades, NBA content has it all.
But in an offseason as unique as this one is for Houston, a sea of speculation and ideas will spread across the landscape of Rockets fandom.