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Return on Paul-Westbrook deal still to be determined for Rockets

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A quarter of the NBA season is already over, but it is still too early to determine how the Houston Rockets fared in the Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook deal.

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

In a span of five days, the city of New Orleans experienced back-to-back heartbreaks from their former beloved franchise players, Anthony Davis and Chris Paul.

With a little over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Paul, the original star of New Orleans basketball, put the nail in the coffin with a fadeaway jumper as time expired on the shot clock.

The three-pointer gave the Thunder a late seven-point advantage, as Oklahoma City took a 107-104 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday evening inside the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

While the shot brought back fond memories on what the future Hall-of-Famer use to do in the Big Easy, it was another reminder on what CP3 did for the Houston Rockets just seven months prior.

It’s been a total of 113 days since Paul’s time with the Rockets came to an abrupt and disappointing end, after he was shipped to Oklahoma City in exchange for Russell Westbrook. Although both parties received negative backlash following the trade, Paul and Westbrook have played reasonably well for their new respective teams.

And with a quarter of the NBA season already in the books, the verdict is still out on which team has the upper hand in the Paul-Westbrook deal. One can argue that both ball clubs may have experienced the same amount of success at this stage of the season if the trade had never gone down.

Despite playing on a below .500 team, Paul has quietly put together a productive season for the 8-12 Thunder.

He is currently averaging 15.1 points, 6.0 assists and 1.6 steals, while his most significant impact has been embracing the mentor role for his young teammates. Although he is still finding a way to leave an immense impression on the court, Paul’s health has been his most meaningful achievement so far this season.

After appearing in just 58 games the year prior, Paul’s deteriorating physical state was a critical reason in the Rockets’ decision to part ways with their aging point guard this past summer. And after missing a total of 50 games during his two-year stint due to a variety of injuries, there were some speculation in Houston that Paul’s best days were definitely behind him.

Although father time continues to show Paul is not the same player that made him one of the best of this decade, CP3 has looked relatively healthy at the start of the year, playing in all 20 games and averaging 30.7 minutes per contest. The Rockets could still benefit from having a healthy Paul on their current roster, but Houston has fared pretty well moving forward with their new star point guard as well.

Westbrook has struggled over the past week (19.0 points on 24.6% FG, 8.3% 3PT), but that should not discredit what he’s done to start his career in Houston, averaging 21.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists in playing 19 out of a possible 21 games.

The 14-7 Rockets have proven they come out on top in crunch-time situations with Westbrook, as the eight-time All-Star closed several close games for Houston, which includes scoring 10 points down the fourth-quarter stretch in a 126-123 victory over the Pelicans.

Unlike the more methodical Paul, Westbrook has allowed Mike D’Antoni to revert to his fast-paced offense, improving to the third-fastest team in the league (105.34) — in comparison to the second slowest ball club (96.83) through the first 21 games last year.

However, the Rockets’ transition from one point guard to another has not been all sunshine and rainbows.

With Westbrook at the helm averaging 4.0 turnovers a game, the Rockets have seen their ability to take care of the ball decrease (15.4 TO) while Paul’s averaging just 1.9 turnovers for the Thunder (13.9 TO). And his shooting woes have sometimes made it challenging for Houston’s offense to gel on the court (39.9/21.6/73.7) versus Paul in OKC (44.7/37.6/88.6).

With both teams playing to about expectations (Rockets are on a 55-win pace, the rebuilding Thunder a 32-win one), the final verdict of this trade will likely take years to determine, with four-future draft picks (first-rounders in 2024 and 2026 and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025) in play for the Thunder.

How the Rockets fare in the playoffs, and whether or not they can win a championship over the next three seasons will determine the success of this trade more than any other affair.

Poll

With a quarter of the season in the books, how do you feel about the Paul-Westbrook swap?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Happy with Westbrook
    (170 votes)
  • 28%
    Would rather have Paul back
    (116 votes)
  • 29%
    Undecided
    (119 votes)
405 votes total Vote Now