The Houston Rockets’ trade for Russell Westbrook was one of the most controversial roster moves in recent memory. Upon the deal’s completion, they were panned league wide for having the audacity to attempt to pair the highest usage players in NBA history together.
Those who doubted the pairing’s potential fit together had all the reason in the world to be skeptical. It is an unorthodox fit. But those who had hope that the two would be talented enough to make it work despite their overlapping skillsets also had all the reason in the world to feel how they did. And for the most part, they’ve been right.
Today, in the video above, we went on a deep dive into who Westbrook is as a player, how he fits on this year’s Rockets team, and if he makes them better or worse. (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t make them worse.)
Westbrook’s speed and propensity for succeeding in transition has transformed the Rockets, giving them the league’s most deadly fastbreak attack to pair with the NBA’s most unstoppable half court locomotive in James Harden. This is a combination that wouldn’t have been possible without Westbrook’s addition.
Even though his assist numbers are down as a direct result of sharing the ball with Harden, Westbrook’s playmaking has shined in his short time in H-Town. He has been able to create open threes for his teammates at will, serving to fortify an existing strength of the team. Who would have thought that one of the league’s best penetrators would thrive as a drive-and-kick playmaker on the league’s most three point heavy team?
Westbrook’s greatest flaw is his lack of a three-point shot, as we all know, and teams have been taking advantage of that as of late. There has been a mass influx of teams electing to defend the Rockets by double teaming James Harden as soon as he crosses halfcourt, not defending Westbrook at all and daring him to beat them. This hasn’t always worked. But sometimes it has, as evident by the team’s Christmas Day loss to the Golden State Warriors.
While this is a concern of the team’s long term, if handled right, the team can turn this defense against the teams that choose to run it— turning Westbrook’s greatest weakness into an advantage.
We go into great detail on all these topics, and several others, throughout the video.