The Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook are in a super tough place right now.
Assuming the rumors really are true, and Westbrook really wants out, there’s an uphill battle ahead for both parties — and even one that could end in a stalemate.
Since the news broke earlier this week that Westbrook wants to be shopped around, the phones haven’t exactly been flying off the hook in Houston’s front office, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Here's how sources describe the marketplace for a possible Russell Westbrook trade: Slow developing.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 13, 2020
This was mostly expected.
Even though Westbrook put up career shooting percentages last season, he’s still a 32-year-old injury-plagued point guard that heavily depends on his athleticism and comes with a hefty price tag.
That doesn’t appear to stop the New York Knicks, though.
The Knicks are on the short list of viable trade destinations for Houston's Russell Westbrook, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 13, 2020
If the Knicks prove willing to absorb the $130+ million left on Westbrook's contract to make him their centerpiece, there is a trade to be made
They have weighed it
While it’s nice to imagine New York being a prospective trade location, don’t think they’ll just allow themselves to get fleeced here — the one time they’re smart, and it has to happen against the Rockets.
The language of this Tweet, “willing to absorb,” implies that they’re taking on something that others aren’t. Odds are that they’re not just going to give away assets for the former MVP. Instead, they’ll probably ask for draft picks to take on the rest of Westbrook’s massive contract.
There’s also the scoop of all scoops this offseason: the Los Angeles Clippers and Rockets have discussed a deal.
DEVELOPING: The Rockets and Clippers have discussed a deal that would send Paul George and a first-round pick to Houston and Russell Westbrook to LA, per @ScoopB. pic.twitter.com/jqILwvppfy— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) November 13, 2020
Not to discredit anyone, but this feels like the scoopiest scoop in all of scoopdom. So not only will Houston receive Paul George — a three-point-shooting, defensive-minded wing that’ll play amazingly off James Harden — but they’ll also receive a draft pick? For a guy who publicly said they’re out? Take it now. Take it yesterday. Send THEM a draft pick. Do it.
OK, now that I wrote that, it feels just too good to be true.
Westbrook must have really hated his first year in Houston, because announcing that you WANT to be traded does your soon-to-be former team zero favors. All the leverage is gone. Every GM should be smart enough to know that no team wants to keep a guy who doesn’t want to play for you. So you’ll be lucky if you get a fair trade for you player, let alone a trade that actually benefits you.
Free agency begins in five days, so hopefully GMs will be in a more giving mood around that time.