Yesterday I wrote a whole thing about why I thought Russell Westbrook deserves to play where he wants next season, and I even gave a list of teams that I thought fit his style of play. Well, he got traded, but it was to none of the teams I picked, or to any team that most thought was even a contender. I was at my rec league basketball game when I got the news that Russ was headed to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, 2 first round picks and 2 pick swaps.
This is insane. I thought it was a joke. I did not think it was true. I could not believe that the Thunder added 2 more first round picks, and by all accounts, they are going to offload Chris Paul as soon as they can, probably for more picks, or tradable assets. The Thunder, once again, got a great deal for a super star. And yes, Russ is a bona fide super star.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of what I dislike about this trade, I want to touch on CP3. Man has he fallen off a cliff this past season, and offseason. He was once a darling of the league. He was the diminutive point guard that could run an offense, shoot and play great defense. He was the building block for the "Lob City" Clippers. He was the man while in New Orleans. He was even considered a great get when he signed with the Rockets 2 years ago. Now he is an added on trade, who is soon to be offloaded for picks. Age always wins, and we are currently seeing a Hall of Fame player age, and age badly, right before our eyes. He may end up on a solid team, but at what capacity? Is he a starter anymore? Is he a legit defender anymore? Will he really help a contender in the modern NBA? I'd say no, no and no. He would be best fitted playing in Miami alongside Jimmy Butler, or just retiring and get into coaching. How the mighty have fallen.
Now, why I dislike this trade so very much for everyone involved. I understand that Russ and Harden both wanted this. I know they are still good friends. I know that Westbrook is a younger and much more explosive version of Chris Paul. But, this back court is going to be rough to watch. Westbrook has been the guy in OKC ever since KD left. Even when they acquired Paul George, he deferred to Russ. In Houston, that is James Harden's team. That much was made wildly clear after they offloaded CP3 last night. Also, both guys need the ball in their hands to be most effective, and Harden, as he has done since he has been in Houston, likes to pound the ball for 20 seconds and shoot a three or try to draw a foul. How will that work with Russ? It won't. Russ, as much as I adore him, is not a good outside shooter, and with Harden pounding out the clock, he won't have time to get t the rim like he can if he is running the offense. Also, he and Harden are going to make guys like PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon just sit there and wait to try and get a rebound, or shoot a three. That is definitely not Tucker's game, and while Gordon is a solid three point shooter, just asking him to sit and wait would bother any player. Clint Capela should have fun with these guys, but now he is simply a pick and roll player on offense. Nothing more, nothing less. All they will want him to do is come up and screen for either Russ or Harden, and roll if he has it, or get ready to crash the glass. That may be what he is best at doing, but this will totally stunt his growth as a player.
Then there is Mike D'Antoni's offense, of which he has tailored to a player of Harden's skill. Now he is going to have to find a way to get Westbrook into the flow of the game. That will be asking a lot of a guy that has averaged a triple double the last three seasons. Also, they will have to get him to take a step back if they want to be as good as they can be.
On defense, the Rockets backcourt is going to be one of the worst in the NBA. We all know Harden's problems on defense. It has been well documented. Well, Russ isn't much better. Sure, he will grab a steal here or there, and get a few chase down blocks a season. But, more times than not, he takes plays off and relies on the help. Teams with a good to great back court could match them evenly. For all that is wrong with his game now, at least CP3 was a threat on defense. Russ, who is a much, much, much better player than CP3, has never played defense like him.
Finally, we have Daryl Morey. The star chaser. The guy that wants big names no matter how mismatched they are with his current roster. He tried this with Carmelo last year. That was a disaster. He tried this with CP3, and while they had a shot to beat Golden State, they didn't, twice, and haven't sniffed the Finals under his direction. And now he is bringing in Russ.
I dislike this pairing so very much. This is the cliché of "there is only one basketball" come to life. No matter how much these 2 like each other off the court, they are going to have to learn to share the ball if they want to be a contender. Neither has shown they can do that since they took over their respective teams. The Rockets will still be a good playoff team. But, I am not as on board as some other people are with Russ and Harden teaming up. I think it is going to be a super clash, and it will not end well for someone, or possibly both guys and the coaching staff. We will see. At least this has made this offseason even more crazy. I'm down for that anytime. But, I am not a fan of this trade. Not one bit.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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