After heavy recruitment from Kawhi Leonard, the Thunder’s star forward Paul George requested a trade to the Clippers, who sent the Thunder a heavy package of draft picks, including a record five first-round picks, two pick swaps, plus Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The heavy assortment of draft picks, combined with the acquisition of 2018-19 All-Rookie PG Gilgeous-Alexander, left open the possibility of both the Thunder and Westbrook being open to a trade, as Oklahoma City’s title contention window appears to have closed. The Thunder reportedly elected to move Westbrook on Thursday night.
Here’s how the deal broke down, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Oklahoma City receives: Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, pick swaps in 2021 and 2025
Houston receives: Russell Westbrook
Shams Charania of the Athletic reports that both the 2024 first round pick and 2026 first-round pick are protected 1-4. The 2025 swap is protected 1-20, and the 2021 swap is protected 1-4, with the Thunder able swap their picks that they own from the Clippers or Heat.
WHAT THE TRADE MEANS FOR THE ROCKETSThere are some questions about how Westbrook and Harden fit together, as Westbrook and Harden have both been heavily ball-dominant players, and both players have their values maximized while playing on the ball. Both Westbrook and Harden ranked in the top four in touches per game last season, per the league’s player tracking system, with Harden leading the league in average seconds per touch while ranking third in average dribbles per touch. Harden and Westbrook are both isolation heavy players, with Harden leading the league in isolation possessions per game, per the league’s player tracking system, and Westbrook ranking third in isolation possessions per game. Both Harden and Westbrook drive to the basket a lot, with Harden leading the league in drives per game, with Westbrook ranking third. Each All-Star was among the most heavily used players, with Harden ranking first in usage rate among starters and Westbrook ranking ninth.
What could be an issue for fit in Houston is that Westbrook did not perform well off the ball, shooting just 33% on wide-open 3s, per the league’s player tracking system, which measures the closest defender to the shooter, and shot just 32% on catch-and-shoot 3s. While Chris Paul also had fit questions when he was first traded to Houston due to ball-dominance, Paul showcased a much better outside shot than Westbrook, shooting 43% on catch-and-shoot 3s while shooting 41% on wide-open 3s. Westbrook’s poor outside shot may create less spacing for Harden when Harden has the ball, as defenders may be less likely to closely guard Westbrook at the 3-point line given his deficiencies shooting wide-open 3s. Harden, meanwhile, was lethal when getting extra space from deep, shooting 46% from 3 on wide-open shots, per the league’s player tracking system. Harden also shot a strong 41% on catch-and-shoot 3s, making him a better candidate than Westbrook to play off the ball. However, Harden ranked in the 93rd percentile in points scored per possession in isolation, while Westbrook was inefficient scoring in isolation, finishing in the 30th percentile in points per isolation possession.
Harden showcased his best fantasy value last season while Paul was sidelined with injuries due to an explosion in usage and volume in the offense, and with a potential drop in volume with Westbrook soaking up usage and touches, Harden’s fantasy value is a candidate to dip in 2019-20 if he’s forced into less volume. However, if Westbrook is able to take more of the load off Harden during the regular season, Harden could be fresher for a postseason run, as his burden in the Rockets’ offense has bordered on overwhelming at times.
WHAT THE TRADE MEANS FOR THE THUNDEROklahoma City now owns a ridiculous amount of assets from their offseason trades, totaling eight first-round picks, including five from the Clippers for George, two from the Rockets for Westbrook, and one from Nuggets for Jerami Grant. The Thunder also own four pick swaps, two from the Clippers and two from the Rockets. The treasure trove of picks will put the Thunder in prime position to rebuild and have the ability to make a highly appealing offer the next time a disgruntled star player requests a trade.
It’s not clear if the Thunder intend to keep Paul for the 2019-20 season. Wojnarowski reports that Houston had hoped to find third-team destination preferable to Paul, but ultimately will leave it to the Thunder to determine once GM Sam Presti meets with Paul and his agent. The Heat had reportedly shown interest in acquiring Westbrook, and Wojnarowski reports that Miami is a possibility for Paul. Download the DK Live app for up-to-the-minute news on Paul’s future.
With the heavily used Westbrook out of the fold, more volume will be available for the rest of the Thunder roster, and Gilgeous-Alexander could be in prime position to further develop if Paul ends up being shipped out.
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