3. Phoenix Suns
The Return: Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Draft Picks
The Phoenix Suns have reportedly been interested in acquiring former Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul. However, it seems likely that Paul will want to go to a situation that is closer to a championship than the Suns. If the Thunder honor Paul’s wishes then he probably won’t be headed to the desert, which opens up an avenue for Russell Westbrook.
The Suns already have Devin Booker in their backcourt but he has shown an ability to play off-ball and could thrive next to Westbrook’s shot creation. Phoenix ended the season on a hot streak and Westbrook might feel that he is the missing piece to their championship equation. If the Suns are serious about speeding up their timeline Westbrook could be a good fit.
The Rockets should ask for Kelly Oubre and Ricky Rubio to match salaries. Oubre is set to make $14.375 million and Rubio is due $17 million. While their salary doesn’t match Westbrook’s $41 million, the Suns only have $93 million in salary commitments for next season so they can afford to take on some extra salary. This will probably suit Phoenix because it’ll mean that they won’t have to cough up nearly as much draft capital.
If the Suns take on $10 million in salary through this trade then the Rockets should only expect two first-round picks back at most. Likely it would be one first-round pick and two second-rounders. However, this move isn’t a straight salary dump because Oubre and Rubio are useful players.
Kelly Oubre is coming off of a season where he averaged 18.7 points a game and set a career-high in three-point shooting percentage at 35.2-percent. He’ll turn 25-years-old right before the season tips off and could be a player the Houston Rockets look to extend.
He is the quintessential 3-and-D player that all teams covet. His youth combined with his recent production indicate that he could be a key contributor for the Rockets for years to come.
Ricky Rubio, on the other hand, is a known commodity. He can pass and he can defend. While that’s not the most exciting combination of traits, it’s an incredibly useful set next to James Harden, who you want to conserve as much energy as possible to score.
Rubio is coming off a great season and is under contract for two more years. He can help ease the creative duties for Harden while also fitting seamlessly into the switch-everything defense the Rockets used to great effect.
This trade is more of a salary dump but Oubre and Rubio make the Rockets a deeper and more functional team. The freed up salary also opens up opportunities for the Rockets to make another move in free agency or trade. Flexibility is not something that fans pay much attention to but it’s of the utmost importance to NBA front offices. If this trade goes according to plan, these two could soon see each other in the postseason.
Next: Number 2