SportsPulse: Houston could not keep idle and watch everybody else support. USA TODAY Sports activities’ Jeff Zillgitt breaks down the blockbuster industry that sends Russell Westbrook to the Rockets the place he’ll reunite with former teammate James Harden.
It says one thing in regards to the state basketball when two All-NBA level guards get traded for each and every different and it simplest registers fourth a few of the balance-of-power moving transactions that experience taken position within the remaining month on my own.
Most commonly, it says that the NBA has modified from a league the place you wish to have 3 superstars to win a name to a league ruled through chronic . And it says that the Houston Rockets, who a couple of weeks in the past looked to be contractually handcuffed to some extent guard in decline along James Harden, had been determined to have the option out.
The Rockets despatched a boatload of long run draft belongings to Oklahoma Town on Thursday to change the unhealthy contract of Chris Paul for the less-bad contract of Russell Westbrook, throwing a distinct take a look at a Western Convention that appears to be broad open.
From a basketball perspective, pairing a ball-dominant guard in Harden with a ball-dominant guard in Westbrook doesn’t make a large number of sense at the floor. From a chemistry perspective, it might appear to carry the opportunity of crisis. And but, what different selection did the Rockets have?
In a way, this industry suits each the ethos of basic supervisor Daryl Morey, who has relentlessly chased superstars with little regard for his or her persona are compatible, and an proprietor in Tilman Fertitta whose guarantees of main exchange for the Rockets after remaining season’s second-round playoff meltdown made much more sense whilst you understand that his first large foray into sports activities got here as a blustery faculty soccer booster on the College of Houston.
With Harden’s window nonetheless broad open at age 29, this was once the time to head for it. This was once the time to offload the 34-year previous Paul off on anyone else sooner than 2021 and 2022 when he’ll make a mixed $85.five million as his bodily decline speeds up. This was once the time to make use of no matter belongings the Rockets had so as to add a moment celebrity whose top covered up extra carefully with Harden’s.
However in the long run, we nonetheless have this main query about Houston: Does swapping Paul for Westbrook resolve the Rockets’ elementary drawback?
Past the guess on natural skill, of which Westbrook has lots, Houston is doubling down on the concept two guards who essentially create photographs for themselves can be higher than one.
Given cheap well being, Houston is a lock to win 50 video games, even within the rugged West the place there gained’t be many gimme putts. Nevertheless it’s simple at this level that they have got a playoff drawback with Harden, whose capturing percentages have dipped from between 44% and 45% in each and every of the remaining 4 common seasons to 41% in each and every of the remaining 4 postseasons.
When such a lot of Houston’s offense depends upon Harden to attain one-on-one, make ridiculous stepback jumpers and draw fouls, it kind of feels obtrusive he’s being pressured to do an excessive amount of.
The problem going ahead, alternatively, is whether or not Westbrook is helping resolve that drawback or makes it worse. As a result of we’ve already observed one iteration of a group the place Westbrook automatically took a sledgehammer to the hierarchy of who was once meant to do what when the stakes had been best, and it wasn’t in particular flattering to him in Oklahoma Town.
If Westbrook didn’t defer sufficient to Kevin Durant within the large moments, why would we predict he’ll do it with Harden? If Westbrook wasn’t in particular environment friendly in playoff video games for Oklahoma Town — his profession Three-point proportion within the postseason is 30.2% — why would we predict it is going to exchange now?
Even though experiences have indicated that Westbrook driven to be traded to Houston and that he and Harden sought after to reunite, they’re in a lot other puts now than they had been as more youthful avid gamers with the Thunder.
Either one of them have gained league MVP awards. Either one of them have spent the previous few years because the simple alpha canine in their groups having to proportion little or no of the credit score or blame. Either one of them had been empowered to take no matter shot they sought after.
Can Houston nonetheless be Harden’s group if he doesn’t have the ball in his arms for almost all of just about each ownership? Can Westbrook be as efficient if he’s enjoying off the ball whilst understanding he may not get it again? Will two stars with tunnel imaginative and prescient to attain be capable of coexist peacefully when their wants overlap?
The solution may not be. However for Houston, which obviously felt it wasn’t going any place with a decreased, banged-up Paul, there was once no different selection however to check out.
Observe Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken.