Thunder trade Westbrook to Houston for Paul, picks: reportsAFP
New York (AFP) -
Russell Westbrook has been traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and two first-round NBA draft picks, according to multiple reports Thursday.
The Houston Chronicle and ESPN, each citing unnamed sources, reported the agreement, the latest blockbuster move in an NBA off-season of major relocations for NBA stars and huge lineup changes for many clubs.
Eight-time All-Star Westbrook, the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player, will be reunited with 2018 NBA MVP James Harden, his former Thunder teammate who was traded to the Rockets in 2012.
Harden and Westbrook had wanted to reunite the backcourt tandem they enjoyed for three seasons with the Thunder.
"It'll be very interesting and fun," Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told Houston's Fox 26 TV. "James and Russell wanted to play together.
"I said at the end of the year we're never going to stand pat. We're always going to try to get better. I think this makes us a better team. I hate to lose Chris Paul, but we felt like we did what we had to do to become a better team."
Paul, who at age 34 could be looking at yet another trade deal, according to reports, joins a rebuilding Thunder squad along with Houston's first-round NBA Draft selections in 2024 and 2026 as well as the right for the Thunder to swap first-round picks with the Rockets in 2021 and 2025.
Harden has led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons, averaging 36.1 points a game this past campaign.
Westbrook has averaged triple doubles for the past three seasons, this past campaign producing 22.9 points and career highs of 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists.
Together, Harden, 29, and Westbrook, 30, form a super pairing as potent as any in the Western Conference, which now includes last month's NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and ex-Thunder star Paul George with the Los Angeles Clippers, plus LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Add improved teams in Denver, Utah and Portland and Stephen Curry-led Golden State -- NBA finalists the past five years -- and the Western Conference next season figures to be up for grabs after years of dominance by the Warriors.
- Oddsmakers like Rockets -
Caesars Sportsbook in Las Vegas improved the odds of the Rockets winning next year's NBA title from 10-1 to 7-1, putting Houston fourth behind the Lakers (7-2), Clippers (4-1) and Milwaukee Bucks (9-2).
The first major off-season move came June 30 when Golden State's Kevin Durant and Boston's Kyrie Irving both signed with Brooklyn.
The next blockbuster came when the Clippers sent five first-round picks and two players to Oklahoma City for George, which enabled them to win a three-team pursuit for Leonard, who departed Toronto after leading the Raptors to an NBA crown.
Oklahoma City has added eight first-round draft picks and four pick swaps through 2026 in the haul from the Rockets and Clippers. Combined with its own selections this will enable the Thunder to quickly rebuild, plus use some picks in deals to land veteran talent with plenty to spare.
Westbrook has four years at $171 million remaining on his contract. Paul has three years at $124 million remaining on his deal.
The Thunder reached the playoffs in all three seasons with Harden and Westbrook in the backcourt, taking eighth in the West in 2010, fourth in 2011 and second in 2012, when Oklahoma City lost to James-led Miami in the NBA Finals.