Falcon Points

Rockets make bold move in trading Paul for Westbrook

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

"That's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off."

- Dodgeball

So the Rockets made a big move on Thursday, agreeing to trade Chris Paul and draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook.

It gives the Rockets two recent MVPs, and former Thunder teammates. It also unloads Chris Paul's onerous contract, one that was looking worse and worse as Paul declined significantly last year. Granted, they will be paying Westbrook more money and for more term, but he is younger and a better player at this stage of his career.

Let's take a look at the deal:

The positives

Westbrook at this stage of his career is a much better player than Paul. It gives the Rockets an incredible 1-2 punch with two MVPs in their prime.

They also appear to be keeping some key elements around them - Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker.

On the surface, they get a significantly better player, make a major splash for the owner and the fan base and create an intriguing contender in a loaded Western Conference. Their backcourt should match up with any team in basketball, and in a suddenly wide open title race, the Rockets are positioned for another run.

The negatives

Can Harden and Westbrook - two high volume, ball dominant guards - co-exist? They are almost the same player. There will be concerns about Westbrook fitting in coach Mike D'Antoni's system. The Rockets give up two first-round picks in the deal, but they have not had interest in the draft in years. If the volatile duo can't co-exist, this could backfire big time.

Westbrook's contract is massive. He is locked up until 2022-23 and will make in excess of $40 million the last three years of the deal.

What's next?

The Thunder might make another deal, sending Paul to a contender - Lakers? 76ers? Heat? - for even more picks. They are in full rebuild mode. If the Rockets can keep their core around the two superstars, they should be a serious contender in the West.

The bottom line

The contract is not really a factor. That is the going rate for a superstar, and Westbrook is that. As for co-existing? Remember, people had the same concerns about Paul. It worked in Year 1, not so much in Year 2. Westbrook, like Harden and Paul, has never really been a postseason master. That will be a concern. But the Rockets had to make this move. They simply were not going to be good enough if Paul continued to regress as he did last year. They get a significantly better player in the deal without sacrificing anything of value.

Will they be a better team? Probably. Good enough to win a title? Maybe, maybe not. But they were not going to be before the trade, so it is a move they had to make.

If nothing else, it will be entertaining.

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Houston gets another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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