The biggest question being raised in the advent of the Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade deal between the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder is how Westbrook will co-exist with James Harden in Houston. This is definitely a valid concern, considering these two are the league’s top two guys in terms of usage rate.
However, perhaps overshadowed by all the talk surrounding the new-look Rockets backcourt is the type of net effect this deal will have on the Thunder. Losing your two best players in Westbrook and Paul George in such a short span of time could not have been an easy pill to swallow for any Thunder supporter, but at this point, it had become a simple case of the Oklahoma City front office making the most of a bad situation.
The Paul George trade may have caught them by surprise, but how they handled the subsequent Westbrook deal is actually pretty impressive, all things considered.
The Right Timing
As soon as news broke that Paul George was heading to the Los Angeles Clippers to join Kawhi Leonard to form the newest dynamic duo out West, it was inevitable for the Oklahoma City Thunder to trade former league MVP Russell Westbrook sooner rather than later. True enough, the Thunder front office were successfully able to do so after barely a week.
Sure, OKC could have pulled the trigger on a deal sooner, but it seems that they meticulously and methodically took the time they needed to seek out the best possible trade partner without necessarily waiting too long. Doing so could have diminished the value of Westbrook, as it was no secret that the 30-year-old wanted out. The Thunder would have risked losing their former cornerstone superstar for a lesser deal had they opted to wait another week or so, so in hindsight, the timing of this particular deal appears to be just right for Oklahoma.
More Future Assets
Aside from Chris Paul, the Rockets also sent over two future draft picks to the Thunder as well two pick swaps. Coupled with all the draft picks they acquired in the Paul George deal, Oklahoma have just amassed an overwhelming number of future assets in the span of a week. This comes in the form of seven first-round picks and four pick swap options, which pretty much means that the Thunder have just secured the future of their franchise for the next five years or so. This is exactly what they needed to do at this point, and this is definitely a tremendous starting point as they look to build their new team from the ground up.
Chris Paul’s Value
At 34, Chris Paul is no longer the premier point guard he once was. He can still hack it with the best of them, and he does seem to have some gas left in the tank, but for all intents and purposes, he just does not fit in with the Thunder’s rebuild plans. It would then only be logical for OKC to move Paul, but it is without question that the biggest stumbling block here is the $124 million he is owed over the next three seasons.
Fortunately for the Thunder, Paul still holds a ton of value, and he will have no shortage of suitors. The Miami Heat have now emerged as one of the former Rookie of the Year’s potential landing spots, with team president Pat Riley seemingly intent on pairing their newly-acquired superstar Jimmy Butler with a formidable point guard.
It is worth noting, however, that the Heat currently do not have enough cap space, nor do they have a slew of significant future draft picks that they can dangle in front of the Thunder. What they can do, though, is to take on some of OKC’s contracts, and in effect, provide the Thunder with some more cap space for the future. Now Oklahoma, with a myriad of future drafts picks and a ton of cap room, will possess as much flexibility and maneuverability as they need in their forthcoming rebuild.
A month ago, the Thunder front office could not have imagined how drastically their plans would have to change in such a rapid pace. However, we need to give credit where it is due, and for his part, general manager Sam Presti has indeed performed an admirable job in salvaging the offseason for his team. OKC won’t likely be competitive next season or perhaps in the season after that, but the moves they have made this summer makes for a very exciting future for the organization.