What's the next step for the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder after agreeing to swap all-star guards Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul?
The Rockets bring together Westbrook and James Harden in a talented backyard that has question marks, while the Thunder continues to stock interim assets for the future as a result of the deal with Paul George.
How will Harden and Westbrook work? Should OKC keep CP3? And what is the best duo of stars in the league now?
Our NBA Insiders are responding to the big issues raised by Thursday's blockbuster and are turning to every franchise.
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1. What is your initial reaction to this trade?
Bobby Marks: Any contract can be traded in the NBA – even though this player is Chris Paul and he owed him $ 120 million over the next three seasons.
Andrew Han: That's the reaction of Wee-Bey.gif. Paul and Westbrook are well known in the superstar division, but they are both on the wrong side of 30. And while Paul is three and a half years older, Westbrook's contract lasts one more season (ending on a player of 47 million dollars in 2022-23). The age difference therefore deserves two selections and two selection selections for OKC despite the extra salary year? The big book does not feel like being completely balanced for Daryl Morey.
André Snellings: First: "I love this game!"
Second: The pairing of two players who dominate the ball and set a record seemed at first a questionable plan for the Rockets. But the more I think about it, the more I see the benefits of this agreement for both teams.
Nick Friedell: Two teams are moving around two terrible cases. I still can not believe that the Rockets gave Paul this maximum extension. Frame. The lesson to be learned is this: never say that a transaction is totally impossible to negotiate. There is always a way.
Tim Bontemps: My initial reaction to the transaction was the one that accompanied the pop that went through the crowd at Cox Pavilion during the Las Vegas Summer League: "Wow!"
It is incredible that Westbrook and Paul have overturned each other, especially at this price. Houston, which must include four asset projects here, shows how quickly things are changing in the NBA. Seven years after Oklahoma City essentially chose Westbrook over Harden, they found themselves in Houston, in a partnership that should become truly fascinating.
2. How did the Rockets do in this business?
Marks: Status quo. The Rockets entered the day in the second level of the Western Conference, behind Denver, the two teams in Los Angeles, Utah and possibly Portland. Houston will be in the same situation even after the acquisition of Westbrook. By working in a front office, you learn that you often value players because they are not part of your team. In this case, Houston clearly had the desire to change the lineup, even if it gives the same results as last season.
Han: The pivot is based on the belief that Westbrook is a more complementary star to Harden than Paul. If this is the case, the Rockets may have been overpaid but have managed to get the young star. A question of adjustment remains nebulous at best, especially when Houston's drumbeat over the past season showed that it was very difficult to defeat a dynastic team at Golden State. In a season when the Hamptons Five's reign is over, dismantling the Harden-Paul duo is not based solely on the hope that a banner will be raised in Clutch City – it's a warrant.
Good time: It was clear that the Harden-Paul suit had run its course, but there are questions about this Westbrook-Harden fit. As one scout told in Vegas, they are arguably the two most dominant league players in the league – and they are now playing in the same backcourt. Westbrook also does not seem to be up to the way Houston plays, given that he is a 30.8% career 3-point shooter and has shot below 30% over the past three years. last four seasons. But Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has always wanted to get stars and find the rest later.
Friedell: As Paul collapsed as his skills dwindled, the Rockets would have little chance of winning next season. They are better with Westbrook – but I do not know how much. He really struggled with his shot at playoff times. They'd better win next season because – just like Paul – Westbrook's skills will only diminish from here.
In addition, it makes a lot of choices and swaps of choice to move a guy that you should never have been looking to make money at first.
Shouts: I think the Rockets have potentially hit the jackpot with this trade. The best basketball ability is availability. Paul missed 48 regular season games and a crucial 7 match in his two seasons with the Rockets. He was a professional caliber team when he was in good health, but it was difficult to rely on Paul to be available when needed.
Nevertheless, this movement only works if Harden has fully accepted the idea of playing more off the ball. Westbrook is not an off-ball threat, but he could be excellent at leading the show and creating the offensive in Houston. Harden should be almost unsustainable as an off-guard capable of operating against unbalanced defenses.
Adrian Wojnarowski explains how the Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade was created and how it will affect Paul's future.
3. How does thunder behave in this agreement?
Good time: Thunder continues to have a great week. In a series of transactions, they have accumulated eight first-round picks over the next seven seasons, as well as four other picks. Add to that the fact that thunder will now retain its own protected choices in 2020 and 2022, and one could say that OKC has recorded 10 first-round picks in three deals – a truly breathtaking result.
By surveying people here in Vegas, no one expects Paul to stay long in the Thunder uniform. The initial thought among league leaders was that the Miami Heat – which was also interested in Westbrook – is a logical landing place.
Han: Do not trade with Sam Presti – at least not in the immediate future. The overseer of OKC has had a series of clever arbitrations like few others in recent weeks. With George and now Westbrook, the Thunder office has managed to take stars in distress, send them to favorite destinations and give them a wealth of benefits. And while Oklahoma City just accepted a series of choices for Chris Paul, would anyone be surprised when he was on board? even more takes when Paul is sent to a prospective so-called pretender?
Friedell: I like what they have recovered. That's a lot of benefits for Westbrook, who was never going to honor his contract. The Thunder took advantage of Houston's desperation to set up a kind of business. There is no reason to keep Paul in OKC – move it and get more assets and selections. I'm hoping that a star will become available on the trade market all along the chain and will bring together a bunch of these assets together and you can then proceed to a real reset.
Shouts: Thunder has worked well, and they should be able to send Paul back to another team for more value. Paul's contract, although huge, is one year younger than Westbrook's and he is still able to compete at a high level when he is in good health. It would make sense on a team that has All-NBA talent and sees itself as an impact player far. The Heat, Timberwolves, Pistons and Magic have the assets to create an attractive offer for him.
Marks: The Thunder gets an A-plus for two factors: they turned Westbrook's $ 170 million contract into four asset projects (two first-round right and two swap rights) and now have Paul to move to a future transaction. Yes, there is no appetite for the remaining $ 120 million of Paul's contract, but if Thunder can make Paul accept expiring contracts (think of Miami) and perhaps a future asset project, Oklahoma City could clean up its finances and start rebuilding the project.
4. Fact or Fiction: The Durant / Westbrook / Harden era of OKC was a success
Han: Made. The trio of OKC has injected a level of basketball fanaticism where many were not sure of the level of sustainment in the region. And although it is assumed that a Thunder team led by Durant-Westbrook-Harden would be regulars in the finals turned out to be naive, judging success or failure simply by the number of rings that one can display looks just as reductive.
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Friedell: Fiction. Thunder did not win a title. The league has always been an essential activity in this regard: have you won a ship or not? Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Serge Ibaka were all in their ranks and still could not do it. Now they have a load of choice of boats while the water draft remains unpredictable. They had the stars dreamed of by the teams and still could not do it. The victories are good but they fade. The championships last forever. The thunder rocked big – they just missed.
Good time: Made. This one is easy. Would the Thunder have liked to win a title? Sure. But over the years, many teams have almost won and have not won. You can not watch this race as anything other than a massive success. Oklahoma City has been a relevant franchise of the NBA for over ten years. The Thunder has qualified for one final and three conference finals, and could very easily have won several championships if a few breaks had been lost. During the same period, teams such as the Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings did not win any playoff series. You think fans of these teams would change places with fans of Thunder? In a heartbeat.
Marks: Fiction. One day there will be a 30 for 30 on what could have been in Oklahoma City when he had kept the NBA Finals Team 2012 together. Instead, we wonder if the mandate of Big Three of OKC has been removed prematurely.
Shouts: Made. Building a team through the repechage that could compete steadily was a feat given its starting point. Although one ultimate goal is a championship, they made their appearance in the finals. In particular, they managed to bring down the only team of 73 victories in history. Two different players won the MVP title and another top-3 to vote while wearing their uniform. They had the potential to do more, but what they accomplished was a success.
5. What is the best duo of NBA stars now?
Shouts: LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They have the most talent, the most size and their games should be better coordinated. But this is not a game of 2 against 2, and at this point, many teams have the potential to beat them for this season's championship. I love this game!
Marks: Start a play between the two teams in Los Angeles: LeBron James / Anthony Davis vs. Kawhi Leonard / Paul George.
Han: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. If the league continues to evolve into a wing-based game, it would be logical to think that the best two-way players for the upcoming season would be the best duo. Leonard just proved that he was able to lead a title fight against chemistry on the fly, and George is coming off a third season as MVP despite some shoulder problems. An argument can be made for the other duo in Los Angeles, but the league's perimeter focus is turning in favor of the Clippers.
Friedell: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. If they stay healthy, they complement the rest of the Clippers' list so well. The defensive ability of this team will be fun to watch every night, in addition to the fact that Leonard, George and Lou Williams all have the ability to purchase a bucket when needed. This team is going to be great.
Good time: LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If Paul George did not get surgery on both shoulders, he and Kawhi Leonard would be in the conversation, but that's about it. Last week, I was caught criticizing that James was not one of the top five players in the league – but I was fifth and third for Davis. No one else in the NBA can compete with two of the top six players in the sport – especially when James and Davis, assuming both are in good health, should be perfectly matched.