Rockets Reloaded

Rockets trade Chris Paul, picks, for Russell Westbrook

Thursday evening the Houston Rockets traded point guard Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for all-star point guard Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook, a former teammate of James Harden, had begun trade discussions with the Thunder's front office immediately following a trade which sent MVP candidate Paul George to the Clippers in exchange for promising young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and even more draft picks. Realizing that the Thunder had suddenly been forced into a rebuild mode through no fault of their own, Westbrook and the Thunder sought to find an amicable solution.

The shocking move once again thrusts the Houston Rockets into title contention, as Chris Paul had begun experiencing a noticeable decline in production during his second season in the Space City. Add in the alleged friction between Paul and Harden, and suddenly the Rockets became a very interested party from the outset of Westbrook's perceived availability.

In what seemed like an uncharacteristically dormant offseason for General Manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets suddenly re-injected their team with one of the most athletic talents in the entire league. Westbrook brings a tenacity and ferocity that is beloved by the team he plays for and reviled by the opposition.

Say what you want about Westbrook's attitude or demeanor. None of that matters. The Rockets won this trade outright, and in a lopsided fashion. It was allowed to be lopsided by the Thunder out of respect to Westbrook and everything he's done for the franchise.

Houston now boasts two MVP-caliber superstars once again with a franchise that has lost none of it's starters, and has resigned every key bench piece that has helped the Rockets to the league's second best combined record throughout the past three years. And even if it all blows up in our faces, man will it be entertaining to watch.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Wednesday's already back again and that means it's time for another recap for all things Rockets.

Westbrook reunion

It was about a week ago that I suggested the Rockets' chances of grabbing Russell Westbrook were slim to none, and then about a day later I was eating crow. Now that the dust has settled there are still plenty of questions still but a few things have been cleared up.

It looks as though the Rockets intend to employ the same staggered approach with regard to James Harden and Westbrook's minutes. The strategy allows both players plenty of on ball time and keeps the pressure on an opponent's starters and bench. It's a highly effective regular season tactic, but it will be imperative to their playoff success to give the two stars ample opportunities to learn how to share the court. This is important because Harden rarely leaves the court in the postseason.

That's where the questions arise. Are Russ and Harden a good fit? Could the stage be set for massive implosion due to conflicting play styles, or will the two stars adapt and acquiesce to one another when need be? Can D'Antoni find a way to scheme around Westbrook's inefficient outside shot? More importantly, who will come better dressed night in and night out. Harden and Westbrook may be in the running for best on-court duo on the league, but they are hands down the most fashion-forward.

Tyson Chandler signs

Shortly after news of the Westbrook deal broke, veteran center Tyson Chandler signed a one year deal. A former defensive player of the year, Chandler has obviously lost a step but still provides valuable depth behind Clint Capela. Capela has been prone to injuries throughout his young career, and last season his absence was felt with Nene and Isaiah Hartenstein left to carry the load.

Iggy rumors remain

Since the acquisition of Westbrook, it has been rumored that the Rockets are focused on acquiring longtime target Andre Igoudala via trade with Memphis. Igoudala was aggressively pursued by the Rockets in free agency in 2017, but at the last minute chose to remain with the Golden State Warriors. The current hangup between the two sides revolves around Houston's reluctance to dive further into the luxury tax to take on what could be a one-year rental.

The Rockets may seem silly for prioritizing the acquisition of a 35 year old player who averaged 5.7 ppg last season, but make no mistake. This isn't a move for the regular season, and it's not for a starting spot. Igoudala's presence on the Rockets would serve as an almost identical role as the one Carlos Beltran provided to the Astros in 2017: a mentor who can still play. Even more so, he remains a defensive pest and is as clutch as they come.

Parting shot

The Rockets finished their summer league schedule with a 3-2 record, but may have found a diamond in the rough. Keep an eye on Chris Clemons, who was white-hot throughout. Clemons averaged 20.8 points per game to go with 5 3-pointers per game. It's possible he could be called up as a spark off the bench, but at 5'9" he'll have a difficult time proving that he isn't a defensive liability.

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