For three seasons, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were teammates in Oklahoma City.
They grew together, had lots of team success, and made it to the NBA Finals in 2012.
However, after not being able to come to terms on a new contract, James Harden was traded to Houston, where he has become the face of the franchise and one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.
In their time apart, each has won an MVP, and has gotten to the Western Conference Finals twice, and each made it to Game 7 one time (each time losing to the Golden State Warriors).
Neither was able to return to the NBA Finals.
Almost 7 years later, Harden and Westbrook are teammates again, as Westbook was traded to Houston for Chris Paul and a bounty of draft picks.
What does it all mean?
Well, let me tell you.
Did I call this?
Earlier this week I wrote about what was next for Russell Westbrook.
In that post, I wrote about the (slim) possibility of Houston trading for Russell Westbrook.
“… a swap of Westbrook for Chris Paul.
[this deal] makes no sense for the Thunder, putting them back in the same position as before, but with an older point guard. Maybe the Rockets attach a bunch of draft picks, who knows.”
Westbrook for Paul on the surface makes no sense, but if you attach enough draft picks (which is all Houston really had to offer), then you’re getting somewhere… and that somewhere was an agreement.
I wouldn’t say I called it, I thought there’d be more value for Westbrook elsewhere, but clearly OKC has a gameplan right now, and they’re sticking to it.
Draft Picks Galore
In this deal, OKC was able to land two first round picks in 2024 (lottery protected) and 2026 (top 4 protected), and two pick swaps in 2021 and 2025.
Combine those picks with the Paul George and Jermai Grant trades… plus the picks they already own… and the beginnings of a treasure chest not yet seen before comes into focus.
That’s up to 15 first round picks the Thunder have control of between 2020 and 2026… that’s how you start a rebuild.
Homecoming in Oklahoma City?
He might never suit up for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Chris Paul has played for the home team in Oklahoma City before.
During his first two seasons in the NBA, the New Orleans Hornets played a lot of home games in Oklahoma City due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.
It was during this time where Oklahoma City showed it could house an NBA team, and how that eventually led to the Seattle SuperSonics moving to OKC and becoming the Thunder.
Unfortunately, Paul’s agent plans to talk to Thunder GM Sam Presti soon, and a trade could be in the works (depending on Paul’s desires).
It would be fun to see him suit up in OKC for the home team once again, but it is probably unlikely.
Another Great Duo
The NBA seems to be reverting from Big 3s and superteams to talented duos.
This list is just a start (to be fair, Rachel only has 280 characters to work with).
Add in Joel Embiid + Ben Simmons, Nikola Jokic + Jamal Murray, Kemba Walker + Jayson Tatum (too soon?), and maybe Chris Paul + Jimmy Butler… the NBA has so much talent spread across the league, and next season is bound to be wild.
A Powerful Backcourt
Russell Westbrook is a talent upgrade over Chris Paul at this time, and Houston finds itself still in contention in the Western Conference.
The question is, how high will this move propel the team?
Well, many thought a marriage between Paul and Harden would not work in 2017, yet we saw the Rockets win 67 games during Year 1 of that experiment. It was good enough for Houston to reach the Western Conference Finals, but an injury to Paul played a role in Houston not being able to finish the job.
Year 2 had more problems, and even though Houston finished last season strong, they fell to Golden State yet again, and news quickly came out that things were not going smooth.
Is that all Westbrook and Harden have? Two years before things go to hell?
Well, hopefully their previous relationship as teammates in OKC can provide a blueprint to success. Westrbook’s lack of three point shooting may make it hard for him to fit in Houston’s style of play, but if he decides to defer to Harden, maybe he can benefit from the floor spacing the Rockets provide.
Harden and Westbrook are each chasing an elusive first NBA championship, and are running out of time and options.
It will take sacrifices if each wants to get there. They are not the same players they were 7 years ago, but they are talented enough to propel Houston to the top of the game.
Well, that’s the question the Rockets have banked their future on.
Credit to photo above goes to @HoopMixOnly via Twitter
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