Posted on July 12, 2019, by Travis Pulver
Fans of the Houston Rockets have learned a very important lesson in recent years—trust Daryl Morey. Their team’s general manager will move heaven and earth to make the team better than it was the year before. It looks like he has managed to do so again.
According to news reports Thursday night, Morey traded Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook.
“We’re excited to have Russell Westbrook,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told Houston’s Fox 26 (via ESPN). “I would watch him play for Oklahoma City, and he’s so athletic….”
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It wasn’t a straight-up trade, of course. The Rockets had to sweeten the pot by throwing in first-round picks (protected) in 2024 and 2026. They also had to include the right to swap picks in 2021 and 2025.
Morey had recently talked about Paul as if he was untradeable. But it was no secret that Fertitta was not a fan of Paul’s hefty contract, especially with his game declining as much as it did last season. Many questioned who would trade for Paul because of his contract, anyway.
With no apparent takers when Morey was shopping Paul around, the team seemed stuck with him. But then the Clippers opened a window for them by trading for Paul George. With the Thunder no longer appearing like a legitimate contender, Westbrook asked the team for a trade.
According to the rumor mill, the Rockets were a longshot at best to acquire Westbrook. But after failing to get Jimmy Butler, there were not too many options left to improve the roster. This made the Rockets an obvious candidate to want to acquire Westbrook even though it didn’t seem like they would be able to.
If you listened to the rumors, he wanted to go to Miami anyway. Now, of course, with the trade to Houston done, the rumor mill is saying he wanted to be reunited with James Harden all along.
“I said at the end of the year, ‘We’re never gonna stand pat,'” Fertitta said, via ESPN. “We’re always gonna try to get better. I think this makes us a better team. I hate to lose Chris Paul, but we felt like we did what we had to do to become a better team.”
As could be expected, the odds on the Rockets to win the NBA championship next year have shortened quite a bit. The Westgate had the Rockets at +1200 and moved them to +800. Caesars moved Houston from +1000 to +700 behind the Lakers (+350), Clippers (+400), and Bucks (+450).
The Thunder, on the other hand, has seen their odds move from +20000 following the Paul George trade to +50000. On July 1 their odds were +2800. But with the haul, they got from the Clippers for Paul George and now the Rockets, they will have at least two first-round picks in six of the next seven drafts and three first-rounders in two of them.
So, it may take a little time for them to become contenders again, but if they draft right, they can. again.