Assessing the trade for the Rockets
There’s alot to unpack here, but let’s start with the fact that trading Paul didn’t free up the $40+ million that he was making, because that’s obviously not how the salary cap works. The Rockets had to also replace Paul’s outgoing annual salary with a salary as high as Westbrook’s.
Fertitta likely felt that Westbrook held more value at this stage of his career, and rightfully so, based on what we saw from Paul during his final season with the Houston Rockets. This has been forgotten, due to Paul’s bounce-back 2019-20 campaign he had with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as he led them to the fourth-seed in the Western Conference, while also making his 10th All-Star appearance.
Westbrook also thrived in his first season, as he was one of only three players to have at least 1500 points, 450 rebounds, and 400 assists, with the other two players being LeBron James and Luka Doncic. Heading into the NBA’s break in action, Westbrook was riding a 34-game scoring streak of posting at least 20 points, which was a career-best.
Westbrook contracted the novel coronavirus during the break, and later suffered a quadriceps injury upon his return, which are both factors that certainly hindered his play when the league commenced the season in Orlando.
A quick gander of Rockets Twitter reveals a fanbase that remains torn on the trade, which is to be expected following the 2019-20 version of Paul. But considering Paul’s regression during the 2018-19 season along with his hefty price tag, Fertitta decided that it was best to move on, which is a trade that worked out for both teams in year one.