On Tuesday, the Rockets announced the trade that sent Chris Paul and draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook. The trade, which was first reported last week, was one of the biggest blockbusters in an offseason of massive deals.
There has been, and will continue to be, much debate over the move until the season begins, and likely deep into it given the magnitude of the move. Before we set it aside for a while anyway, let's take a look at four pros and four cons of the deal.
Are there too few balls to go around?
This was a much bandied about narrative when Chris Paul was brought to Houston, but it was proven to be a non-issue. The biggest difference with Westbrook is how ball dominant he is. Unlike Paul, Westbrook has been one of the league's best scorers, doing so as one of the better iso players in basketball...much like James Harden. Untangling that will be a serious headache for coach Mike D'Antoni.
Draft picks could become a factor if this doesn't work.
Right now, those draft picks years away don't seem like that big of a deal. And if the Rockets win a title (or two), no one will care. But if they can't make that happen and they wind up with no first round draft picks in years where they are in the lottery thanks to a slow, steady decline, everyone will remember why.
Can the team handle Westbrook as alpha dog?
Harden is, without question, the team's leader. Westbrook is much more of a vocal leader and a guy who is as much dog as he is alpha. If he is to make this work, he will need to accept that the team has several guys — P.J. Tucker, Austin Rivers and Harden, to name three — who will be vocal in their opinions. How Westbrook handles that will be critical.
Three-point shooting woes.
Westbrook is a career 30 percent three-point shooter despite being a volume shooter. The Rockets are certainly the right team to bring volume shooting, but not if you are under 34 or 35 percent from behind the arc. There are reports the Rockets believe they can help him improve that number, but that's tough to imagine and the moment. Given that deficiency, it is hard to see how that wouldn't be a weakness.
Westbrook and Harden have a long relationship.
One very different component to this partnership between the new team backcourt is that they grew up together and have played together on the Thunder. They know each others' games and they understood that going into this trade. Plus, they are the same age meaning they have the opportunity to play together in their primes for longer. That should go a long way to help keep them on the same side.
They want to play together.
Much like the Paul trade, which worked quite well minus the injuries, this move was a mutual decision by Westbrook and Harden. They want to play together. Some have suggested Harden knew he wanted Westbrook on the team as soon as the season was over. When great players want to play together, they figure out how to make it work.
The Rockets didn't give up anything of substance.
Considering they got the younger, more talented player in the deal, it's really shocking they didn't have to give up a core rotation player to make it happen. To get Jimmy Butler, they were willing to give up Eric Gordon and Clint Capela (there were even reports that would give up Tucker). With this deal, they bring back everybody and upgrade at Paul's spot. That's impressive.
The chances of a championship have grown significantly.
Make no mistake, whatever you think of Westbrook or his game or the draft picks, this deal takes the Rockets from a decent playoff team to a legitimate championship contender. They were the best team in the second half of last season and they have upgraded both at point guard and on the bench with the addition of Tyson Chandler. They will likely add at least one more and should get growth from Caplea and Danuel House. This team was already loaded and now it's even more so with a single deal.
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