James Harden and Russell Westbrook are teammates again.
While all the buzz had been about the Thunder trying to trade Westbrook to Miami — a place Westbrook was interested in — that was a complicated trade because Oklahoma City wanted to dump extra salary and Miami was up against the hard cap.
Enter a trade to the Houston Rockets and a swap of big contracts for Chris Paul, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
There was a lot of talk floating around Summer League in Las Vegas that Harden and Westbrook wanted to team up again, a lot of smoke and, apparently, enough fire too that it got done.
In the past year there had been tension about the style of play in Houston between Harden and Paul — Harden thrives in isolation, Paul’s game has slowed a step and he wanted more picks and more ball movement — so for the Rockets this is a player that fits what Harden wants. That said, there is only one ball and two guys who want to dominate it. Mike D’Antoni, in a lame-duck year, has some work to do to get everyone to sacrifice a little. What we can say for sure is the Rockets will be an isolation heavy team, but with so much skill at that style they will be difficult to stop.
Also, Westbrook is a talent upgrade over CP3 at this point in their careers.
The Rockets remain title contenders right in the thick of a Western Conference at least five deep with teams that believe they have a shot at the title.
The Thunder say they are excited to have CP3 as part of a good core, but the smart money is they will not keep Chris Paul long term. However, trading him will be a challenge (he has three years, $124 million on his contract, and he wants to play for a contender).
The Thunder just keep stockpiling picks for a rebuild.