The Houston Rockets are clearly in desperation mode at this point. They’ve gone directly after the Golden State Warriors the last two years in the playoffs and come up short. That’s why they must have felt like they had to do something big, namely getting rid of Chris Paul’s contract at all costs, even if it mortgages their future. Either that or the reported rift between James Harden and Paul was/is real and they had no choice.
Regardless, the Rockets just made their move, sending Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for former MVP Russell Westbrook. To make it happen, they also had to give up two first-round picks and agree to two more pick swaps too. That’s a lot.
While this trade looks really lopsided for the Thunder (it is), the Rockets had to make it because of Paul’s contract and how bad it is. The oft-injured 34-year-old has three more years on his $159-million contract, which includes a player option for $44 million in the final year. You can bet Paul will be cashing that check when he’s 36. So the Rockets had to pay to get rid of that with two first rounders. Plus they got the better player.
For the Thunder, this completes their total overhaul of an offseason, as they waved the white flag of competing for a championship by sending Paul George to the Clippers for a ton of picks and now the Westbrook deal too. The amount of assets they now have is silly.
The Rockets, meanwhile, aren’t waving any flag. In fact, they’re banking on the fact that Harden and Westbrook can play nice and team up to lead the Rockets to the NBA Finals. They’ll find it hard with all the star talent assembled in California, but all the same, they clearly think this duo gives them the best chance against the other tag teams in the West. It’s a risky move, especially when you consider Westbrook has four more years on his $200-million contract and Harden is a free agent after this season. But the Rockets were willing to bet on the present instead of the future and another shot at the title.