Houston Rockets: Five landing spots for Russell Westbrook

James Harden Russell Westbrook Houston Rockets (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
James Harden Russell Westbrook Houston Rockets (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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RJ Barrett (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
RJ Barrett (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

5. New York Knicks

The Return: Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Draft Picks

If the Knicks are in for Westbrook then the Rockets must demand that they receive Mitchell Robinson in return. The second-year center out of Western Michigan has quietly been one of the most efficient players in the league. He led the league in field-goal percentage last season at 74.2-percent and he has a career offensive rating of 142.

While his offensive game is simply as a rim-runner and dunk artist, that’s just fine if James Harden is orchestrating the offense. Stephen Silas, as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, ran a ton of pick-and-roll to a league-leading offense. The Rockets’ lack of a true center could make it tough to replicate that success but Robinson would fill that hole immediately. At just 21-years-old, he has time to grow and at his peak, he could remind people of peak DeAndre Jordan.

Julius Randle and Bobby Portis would be included to match Westbrook’s $41 million salary. Portis has a team option for $15.75 million and Randle is set to make $18.9 million. Along with Robinson’s $1.6 million rookie deal, the Knicks would be sending out $36.25 million back to see their salary commitments reach a shade over $106 million, still under the season salary-cap of $109 million.

Sometimes good players are on bad contracts. Randle and Portis are two quality NBA players who are in their primes. The duo will be 26-years-old next season and have shown that they’re capable of helping a team win if in the right role. Randle could thrive as a small-ball five, while Portis would instantly bolster the Rockets’ rebounding.

Every NBA contender would love to have the pair in their rotation at the right price. Portis is an expiring contract and Randle’s salary for 2021-22 is only guaranteed for $4 million. The Rockets could shed both contracts just in time to have ample cap-space for the summer of 2021.

The Knicks own all of their draft picks from 2020 on and also have the Clippers 27th pick this year and a protected first-round pick from the Mavericks. The real prize would be if the Rockets could land the eighth pick in the upcoming draft, but a deal that sees the Rockets net the 27th pick, one of New York’s future firsts, and the Dallas pick wouldn’t be a horrible haul.

How much the Rockets are able to extract, in terms of draft capital, comes down to how many other teams are in on Westbrook. As much as the Houston Rockets would love two first-round picks and two pick-swaps, what they gave up for Westbrook, the Knicks know they won’t have to go that high.

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