With a swirl of NBA trade rumors and with upheaval in the front office of the Houston Rockets — not to mention a new coach — the future of the organization is at a crossroads.
Despite some conflicting reports about the potential availability of James Harden and Russell Westbrook in a trade, no one knows exactly what’s next for the Rockets, and that uncertainty has fueled speculation as to what Houston could get in return should they decide to deal one of their superstars. Of the two, Russ is the more likely to be dealt should the team look to shake things up.
This season, Westbrook averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7 assists, though his partnership with Harden fell short of a Western Conference Finals appearance.
With the third-highest salary in the league, $41.3 million for the 2020-2021 season, it’s debatable whether Westbrook is worth keeping around. Harden claims the fifth-highest salary in the league and finished third in the NBA’s MVP race, so The Beard shouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. This leaves Westbrook as the odd man out.
Here are 10 possible trade scenarios from each NBA team for Westbrook. These trade scenarios are intended to be realistic and financially plausible. In some cases, additional bargaining could be needed to satisfy both parties or minor salary cap issues.
Cleveland Cavaliers- Kevin Love, Collin Sexton
Analysis: Kevin Love is a consistent scoring and rebounding option. This season, Love averaged 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds. The veteran has maintained this same level of performance since 2015. In addition, during his sophomore year in the league, Collin Sexton averaged a solid 20.8 points. The 21-year-old has tons of untapped potential. In this trade scenario, the Rockets would land both a reliable forward and a young, promising guard.
The Cavaliers finished dead last in the Eastern Conference this season. Love isn’t the same impact player from his Timberwolves days, Sexton can’t carry a team, and this year’s draft likely won’t solve the franchise’s problem. Adding Westbrook would speed up Cleveland’s rebuilding process and fix the debris left from the LeBron James bandwagon tour. The pairing of Westbrook and Andre Drummond would definitely be interesting. Right now, the bar for Cleveland is on the ground so it’d be very hard for Westbrook to make things worse.
Lots of other options work here too if the Cavs won’t part with Sexton. Darius Garland and Dante Exum would also be possibilities. But it would remain to be seen if that would move the needle for the Rockets in the same fashion.
Detroit Pistons- Blake Griffin
Analysis: Blake Griffin sat out the majority of this season with an injured left knee. Regardless, the veteran is reported to be healthy by next season. During the 2018-2019 season, Griffin averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. If Rockets are able to acquire a fully recovered Griffin, he may be able to unleash this same All-Star level of play from only one year ago. It’s a risky trade scenario, though the Rockets are in need of a premier forward.
Since 2008, the Detroit Pistons have either missed the playoffs or barely squeaked in as the 8th seed. Blake Griffin hasn’t been the saving grace for the franchise and Derrick Rose is rumored to be on his way out soon. Westbrook can offer the Pistons a fresh start. Having just $68 million committed next season ($109 million projected cap), Detroit can easily absorb Westbrook’s contract and use the extra cap space to attract more stars.
Miami Heat- Tyler Herro, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk
Analysis: Tyler Herro is the NBA’s hottest new star. The 20-year-old rookie had an amazing offseason run with the Heat and has lots of untapped potential. Keeping the hype out of mind, Herro averaged 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists this season. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk would be a good defensive piece for the Rockets, while Andre Iguodala is primarily added to this trade for salary cap purposes. This trade scenario would give the Rockets more depth to their roster.
The Miami Heat just made it to the NBA Finals and will want to ride their momentum into next season. If anyone needs a reminder, Miami finished as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference and were underdogs throughout their playoff run. The fiery duo of Jimmy Butler and Westbrook would add an extra layer of intensity to a starting lineup that also includes Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson.
Minnesota Timberwolves- Karl-Anthony Towns, James Johnson
Analysis: Karl-Anthony Towns is a top center in the league. This season, Towns averaged 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. At 6’11” and 24 years old, KAT has a bright career ahead of him. In this trade scenario, the Rockets would acquire an elite center and stay in championship contention for next season. Undoubtedly, the combination of Harden and Towns would be phenomenal.
Right now, the Minnesota Timberwolves don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Even back in 2018, with a team stacked with KAT, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Derrick Rose, Minnesota struggled to make the playoffs. The Timberwolves hold the #1 pick in this year’s draft, though youth and postseason success don’t go hand in hand. Westbrook may be a stronger, more established alpha as a foundation to build the team around, since Towns hasn’t fixed this sinking ship.
Minnesota has just $94 million committed next season (projected cap of $109 million) and could theoretically make a straight up deal work, but Johnson is involved mostly as a dump by Minny ($15 million a year salary) for added flexibility, and another real power forward with proven NBA experience on Houston’s roster couldn’t hurt.
Philadelphia 76ers- Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson
Analysis: Joel Embiid is another top center in the league. Embiid has earned three consecutive All-Star selections and has a bright future ahead of him. This season, The Process averaged 23 points and 11.6 rebounds. His presence would immediately put the Rockets in championship contention. Josh Richardson is mainly added to this trade scenario for salary cap purposes, though he did average 13.7 points per game this past season and is the type of swingman backcourt player the Rockets covet.
The 76ers have experienced lots of changes in personnel this offseason, from Daryl Morey to Doc Rivers. The trade itself is unlikely, though Embiid wants to win a championship and will jump ship if the 76ers can’t get there. Considering Morey’s relationship with the Rockets, never say never.
Los Angeles Clippers- Paul George, Ivica Zubac
Analysis: Paul George has excelled at the small forward position throughout his career. This season, George averaged 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. The Rockets could benefit from a balanced lineup, instead of relying on two superstar guards. George is a risk, considering his recent cold spells, but so is Westbrook. Also, Zubac can replace Tyson Chandler, now a free agent, as the team’s veteran center.
The Clippers’ experiment of Kawhi Leonard and Pandemic P didn’t work well in the bubble this year. After a second round loss to the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles must consider changes. With the franchise losing their image as a serious threat in the Western Conference, Westbrook may be able to help the Clippers in areas George can’t.
Patrick Beverley is also an option here instead of Zubac. Wouldn’t we love to have Pat Bev back in H-town? And that opens up a potential log jam at guard for the Clips as well if Westbrook arrives.
Boston Celtics- Gordon Hayward, Robert Williams III
Analysis: Gordon Hayward had a solid comeback season for the Celtics as a full-time starter. This season, Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. The star is not out of the woods with his injury-prone ankle, but is another candidate to augment Houston’s lineup at the forward position. Additionally, there is no harm in seeing how Robert Williams III develops as a center.
Russell Westbrook would bring the same explosiveness that Isaiah Thomas brought Boston in 2017. The Celtics nearly reached the NBA Finals this season and Russ can only help their odds. The trade itself might appear unlikely, but is a possible option for Hayward to end up in Houston.
Charlotte Hornets- Terry Rozier, Cody Zeller
Analysis: This season, Rozier averaged 18 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. This scenario would help replace Westbrook’s explosiveness, while also adding a capable big in Zeller who is also a legit 7-footer for Houston’s new offense.
Acquiring Russell Westbrook would give the Hornets what they’re missing, a superstar. Sure, the Hornets have farmed All-Stars here and there, but this is the 2017 league MVP we’re talking about. The Hornets can absorb Westbrook’s contract and still have room to shop for other key players. They have just $79 million currently committed for next season. Westbrook could attract more All-Stars to Charlotte and bring more media coverage to the franchise.
New Orleans Pelicans- Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick
Analysis: Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick are two respectable veterans. This season, Holiday averaged 19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.7 assists, while Redick averaged 15.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Redick has a good reputation for his three-point shooting and Lauren Holiday’s husband is a solid starter. Both players can be a strong supporting cast for Harden, without taking away important touches from The Beard.
The Pelicans were playoff hopefuls this season, though they trickled down to 13th in the Western Conference after playing in the bubble. Right now, the franchise is putting all their faith into Zion Williamson. The problem is that Williamson needs leadership around him, considering the center is only 20 years old. It would be beneficial to pair the rising star with an experienced superstar, such as Westbrook. Russ-Zion pick-and-roll anyone?
Milwaukee Bucks- Khris Middleton, Robin Lopez
Analysis: Khris Middleton is overshadowed by Giannis Antetokounmpo, though the two-time All-Star is a star in his own right. This season, Middleton averaged 20.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. No question, Middleton could be an impact player for the Rockets. Robin Lopez is included in this trade scenario for salary cap purposes and the fact that the Rockets need a veteran big.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, current league MVP, isn’t going anywhere until next season. Awaiting Antetokounmpo’s free agency decision in 2021, the Bucks could use Westbrook as an incentive for The Greek Freak to stay. The superstar duo could be Milwaukee’s modern day version of Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
What say you, TDS? Any of these deals tickle your fancy? Which one of these do you think is most likely to get done?