(Photo by Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)
Article written by Zach Zola (@ZachZola1)
The past few days have been pretty rough for the Houston Rockets.
After a Russell Westbrook trade request and a damning article from The Athletic, new head coach Stephen Silas and new GM Rafael Stone have found themselves in the middle of a frenzied locker room just days before Free Agency is supposed to begin.
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an article imploring the Rockets NOT to trade Westbrook. The recent reports, though, have left me feeling a bit less bullish.
Honestly, I’ve gone back and forth on Westbrook all year – and I feel that he has gotten a little bit too much blame at times – but the trade request is just indefensible. At the end of the day, the Rockets constructed their entire roster around Westbrook and his inability to shoot. We saw his highs magnified in February, and, in a full upcoming season with a new coach, he’d have a chance to build on that moving forward.
Instead, though, it seems like he’d prefer to go somewhere else and average a triple double as the star. So be it. As our own Jackson Gatlin (@JTGatlin) more adeptly put it:
I don’t know about you all, but I’m officially ready to move on.
With that being said, it’s not as if Westbrook and his contract can easily be shipped out. The Rockets are in a weird spot right now – not quite able to contend with just James Harden, but also far from a lottery team with James Harden. A Westbrook trade, then, would ideally bring back some return value, as well as open up cap space to sign a solid free agent or two.
In this article, I will offer a possible Westbrook trade scenario for every single team in the league. Some of these probably have absolutely no chance of ever happening, but hey – we never thought the Rockets would trade for Westbrook in the first place.
Read on to see what kind of package each of the 29 other NBA teams could offer the Rockets…
Option 1: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks would’t part with Hunter this early in his career, but I included this trade because it’s a nice template for what the Rockets are going for. Here, the Rockets would gain a young swingman in Hunter and a strong, stretch 5 in Dewayne Dedmon – two types of players that would fit perfectly with James Harden.
The Hawks might say no to this trade, but it’d be hard for them to pass up on the rare opportunity to create the worst backcourt fit in NBA history.
Option 2: Boston Celtics
I actually think this one makes some sense for the Celtics. Westbrook would have a slew of shooters around him and room to drive to the rim, and House would fit in nicely as an additional wing defender and perimeter scorer.
For the Rockets, Kemba feels like a much more natural point guard for Harden. He’s a fantastic ball handler who averages far fewer turnovers that Westbrook, and would be well equipped to break down defenses in the 4v3 when Harden gets doubled. And, despite a down shooting year, he’s a legit threat from three – something that the Rockets desperately need more of.
Option 3: Brooklyn Nets
Out of all the teams in the NBA, the Nets are the least likely one to attempt a Westbrook trade. Entering their first year of the Durant-Irving pairing, they’ll want to see how it plays out before making any major moves.
This trade would reunite Westbrook with Durant, though, so that’s exciting I guess. For the Rockets, they’d get a couple of supporting players and then a dump-able contract in Taurean Prince.
Option 4: Charlotte Hornets
This is one of the few teams that has been rumored to be interested in a Russell Westbrook trade. At the moment, though, it’s unclear what exactly the Hornets would be willing to give up. The trade offer above somehow feels like too much and too little at the same time.
Rozier and Zeller are both adequate NBA players, but they just feel kinda…bleh. Adding a protected future first round pick sweetens the pot, but that might be too much potential value for the Hornets to part with. I’m all for sending Westbrook off to have fun in Charlotte, but hopefully the Rockets can get something out of it that’s better than Nic Batum.
Option 5: Chicago Bulls
This would be nice.
Zach LaVine is an All-Star caliber guard and Thaddeus Young is the perfect stretch 4. Both players would elevate the Rockets in different ways, and add more solid depth. Perhaps some additional picks and pieces from a third team would push the Bulls to pull the trigger on this trade, giving them that energetic All-Star point guard they haven’t had since Derrick Rose.
Option 6: Cleveland Cavaliers
I hate how possible this one feels.
I’ve always liked Kevin Love – and think he would’ve been incredible for the Rockets 4-5 years ago – but, at this stage in his career, I don’t know if he’s worth it. He’s still a “star” – and definitely attainable – but his defense is such a minus that this swap just doesn’t make enough sense.
Option 7: Dallas Mavericks
Unless I’m totally missing something, the trade machine seems pretty far off in its win projection for this one.
I think this trade would actively make the Rockets worse, but it gives them a bit more cap flexibility and some potentially impactful players. Either way, there’s no way the Rockets send Westbrook to the Mavs and Mark Cuban.
Option 8: Denver Nuggets
This would kind of come out of left field, but I actually really like this deal. I have long considered Will Barton to be a perfect complement for James Harden, and I think he would really thrive in a fast-paced Rockets offense.
The Nuggets, though, coming off an amazing playoff run, probably wouldn’t go for it.
Option 9: Detroit Pistons
I didn’t even bother throwing in picks here because I honestly don’t know which player is more valuable (or should I say, less valuable).
This is a gross trade that I hope doesn’t materialize, but it makes sense financially and makes theoretical sense for two teams looking to shake things up.
Option 10: Golden State Warriors
I am certain of two things:
- This trade will never happen.
- If it does, Russell Westbrook will become a top 10 player in the league again and help the Warriors win another championship.
Option 11: Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo is another player who wants out from his current team. It’s crazy to look back at the former Thunder teammates from a couple years ago and see that Oladipo is the more valuable asset now, but here we are.
With this trade, the Rockets would gain: a 2-way All-Star caliber guard, a good defensive big man who can space the floor, and a second Ben McLemore. It would take a lot – and I don’t know if what I have here is enough – but I think that something along these lines is a definite possibility.
Option 12: Los Angeles Clippers
Now this is where it gets interesting.
A Clippers trade would, more realistically, involve a package of their role players, but Paul George is a star that could suddenly be available after how the playoffs went. The Clippers – like the Rockets – are looking to shake things up, and George is the guy that seems most at odds with the rest of the roster. He would be an elite fit next to Harden, and the two would have a chance together to shed their respective “playoff choker” monikers.
This trade would also be notable for uniting Westbrook and Patrick Beverley. Two old friends.
Option 13: Los Angeles Lakers
It’s nearly impossible to make the contracts work here without a third team. And with each Lakers role player I added, I got more and more disgusted.
This would be the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals. Please don’t let this or anything like this happen.
Option 14: Memphis Grizzlies
Even though Ja Morant has often been compared to Westbrook, the Grizzlies would never make a trade like this and risk compromising the development of their young star.
On the other side of things, though, I really like all the players the Rockets would be receiving in this hypothetical deal. Especially the playmaking forward Kyle Anderson. If there’s a way to get any of them some other way, I’m all ears.
Option 15: Miami Heat
Westbrook to the Heat rumors have been a thing for awhile now, and I don’t really understand it. I think he’d be a horrible fit next to Jimmy Butler, and would really just disrupt the nice young core the Heat have.
As it stands right now, there’s no way Pat Riley would ever part with Herro, but I included him here or else I would have had to deal with the dynamic Kelly Olynyk/Meyers Leonard duo instead. On this Heat team, their most valuable players – other than Butler – are all on smaller contracts, making a trade involving Westbrook pretty difficult to figure out.
Option 16: Milwaukee Bucks
This is the trade that actually inspired this article, as I have long been obsessed with a potential Westbrook for Middleton swap.
Middleton is an elite two-way player. He’s the consistent wing threat that James Harden has never had throughout his time as a Rocket (unless you count Kostas Papanikolaou). On defense, I’m already imagining how absolutely epic a Covington-Middleton-Tucker frontcourt would look. If Rafael Stone can somehow pull this off, I would feel 100x times better about the Rockets going into next season.
Option 17: Minnesota Timberwolves
I had to do it.
The Rockets definitely don’t have the assets to get KAT, but there is literally nothing else the Timberwolves can offer to make a potential Westbrook deal make sense. If they want Westbrook, they’re going to have to give us KAT. It’s that simple.
We can dream a little, right?
Option 18: New Orleans Pelicans
I really wanted to somehow include Lonzo in this as well, but that felt a little greedy.
Jrue Holiday makes so much more sense in the Rockets backcourt compared to Russell Westbrook. He’s not only capable of shooting and breaking down defenses off the dribble, but he’s an elite defensive guard – something that we know the Rockets need after watching Chris Paul back in 2018.
In reality, a trade for Holiday would likely involve a third team, but the Rockets should do everything in their power to bring him to Houston.
Option 19: New York Knicks
If there’s one team that might be willing to take on Westbrook’s contract no questions asked, it’s the New York Knicks.
This is a pure salary dump, as the Rockets would get back picks and cap flexibility to pursue free agents and more trades. It would be kind of a deflating and weird trade on the surface, but there are definitely some benefits to a move like this one.
Option 20: Oklahoma City Thunder
Option 21: Orlando Magic
The Magic have been a consistently fun team for a few years now, but they’re in a prime position to shake things up and make a big roster move. Westbrook could be a guy to come in and help push the Magic toward sustained relevance.
For the Rockets, this almost feels like a no brainer. Each of these players would have a valuable role on the team, starting with Aaron Gordon – who I have long felt is brimming with untapped potential on both sides of the court. Mo Bamba too, still young, seems to need a fresh start somewhere. For the Rockets, he could be a great pick and roll/pick and pop guy, and a solid anchor on defense.
Let’s make it happen.
Option 22: Philadelphia 76ers
Al Horford is another one of those guys on a bad contract that seems destined to be in a Rockets uniform somehow. Daryl Morey would never make another trade for Russell Westbrook in a million years, but, if he did, this would be a really solid deal for him, not having to give up Embiid or Simmons.
For the Rockets, they’re getting decent pieces in return, but none of them really move the needle in a positive direction. This is not a good trade. If the Rockets want to get Horford, they should do it via Eric Gordon instead.
Option 23: Phoenix Suns
Like the Knicks, the Suns are another team with cap space to take on a big contract like Westbrook.
Unlike the Knicks, though, the Suns actually have good players to trade. This would be a terrific return package. Oubre and Bridges are young and talented wings, and would be huge helps on both ends of the floor. This trade would also allow for the Rockets to have space to sign someone in free agency, giving them a ton of flexibility moving forward.
Option 24: Portland Trail Blazers
I legitimately felt physically sick creating this one. The Trail Blazers are so hard-capped that a Westbrook trade is nearly impossible unless it involves Damian Lillard (not happening).
Either way, this trade is impossible because the honorable Trevor Ariza will refuse to come without his apology.
Option 25: Sacramento Kings
For such a consistently bad team, it’s weird how many pieces I really like on the Kings’ roster.
Harrison Barnes is meh, but Richaun Holmes could easily develop into a Clint Capela-type center for the Rockets. I think he’d be a perfect fit, and the Rockets would be wise to go after him this summer. As for the Kings, a Russell Westbrook-De’Aaron Fox pairing would be…interesting
Option 26: San Antonio Spurs
I think Gregg Popovich would go into early retirement if he had to coach Westbrook for a year.
This is kind of an ugly trade, but it makes sense financially. It doesn’t really help the Spurs as they already have a decent group of guards, but I think the Rockets would jump at the opportunity to grab someone like LaMarcus Aldridge. He’s getting up there in age, but he’s still a good NBA player. Patty Mills – known Rockets killer – would be a great guy to have coming off the bench in the Austin Rivers role.
Here’s a question: If the Rockets were to offer Westbrook for Popovich straight up, do the Spurs say no?
Option 27: Toronto Raptors
Now the real player we want from the Raptors is Serge Ibaka, but that will have to be done through free agency. So instead, let’s get back familiar face Kyle Lowry.
This trade feels weirdly possible, but also definitely never going to happen. It would be great to have Lowry back on the Rockets, though.
Option 28: Utah Jazz
Mike Conley looked pretty washed last season, but this honestly wouldn’t be such a bad trade. The Rockets definitely get far worse, but the picks are nice.
And at least Conley knows how to shoot.
Option 29: Washington Wizards
This is like the Blake Griffin trade, but grosser.
Well there you have it.
Russ, I’m sorry I just listed 29 ways to get you off this team. I promise I appreciated your contributions during the regular season.
And, of course, happy birthday.
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