By now, you’ve probably heard that Russell Westbrook is on the trade block. With Paul George gone the Oklahoma City Thunder are officially out of contention and are rightfully looking to blow up the team and rebuild. Their haul for PG-13 was substantial and the Thunder basically control the Clippers’ draft for the next decade.
So with a superstar available on the market, the eyes of the NBA turn to Daryl Morey, known for his penchant for chasing players with superior talent.
However, trading for Westbrook would be a huge mistake and will undoubtedly hurt Houston’s chances of attaining their ultimate goal: an NBA championship.
Let’s start with the obvious and glaring point: no team that employs Russell Westbrook will ever win a title. Any time Russ is on the court, he dominates the game and bends the style to his own. That style includes inefficient shots and tunnel vision in big moments. Houston already has a ball-dominant guard who’s better than Russ. If the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that taking the ball out of James Harden’s hands is always a bad idea.
Before we even consider the rotation pieces that Houston would lose in this trade, let’s talk about draft picks. The Rockets have been willing to trade their first round picks lately, but with Harden hitting 30 next month, Houston has to keep an eye on the long-term future. Most teams taking on Russ’s monstrous contract (4 years, $171 million remaining) will be asking for multiple picks to take on the money owed to Westbrook. On the other hand, Oklahoma City and Sam Presti will be asking for first round picks for Russ. Remember, Russ has been the face of the OKC franchise for the last three years and their fans are fiercely loyal to him. The Thunder need to get hope back in the trade to sell to their fans. Thunder fans won’t want Chris Paul or Eric Gordon. They want a haul comparable to what the team got for Paul George, and Houston absolutely shouldn’t try to match that bounty.
The Rockets are known for their pursuit of efficiency and Russ would bring the opposite to the squad. All of Russ’s efficiency numbers are trending in the wrong direction as he’s hit the wrong side of 30. Here are some examples:
- Russ shot 29% from deep last season. Gary Clark and Kenneth Faried shot better than that.
- Russ’s free throw shooting plummeted to 65.6%. Clint Capela shot 63.6%.
- Russ’s effective field goal percentage was 46.8%. That’s basically the same as Michael Carter-Williams (46.7%).
- Over a third (37.2%) of his shots are long twos (10-23 feet). He makes 31.8% from that area, the least efficient shot in basketball. Houston’s midrange maestro, Chris Paul, shoots 47.6% from that distance.
- Russ had a win shares per 48 minutes mark of .124. Nene had a .123 mark.
Westbrook’s game is at least a decade too old and does not fit in Houston. His inclusion in the team would break up a core that has proven that it can win 60 games and beat any team besides the peak Golden State Warriors. Breaking up this team to bring on a high-usage, inefficient, past-his-prime player would effectively be the end of the Houston’s chances at a title during the James Harden era.