Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Tomahawk Tuesday: How will Russell Westbrook fit with the Houston Rockets?
There has been so much happening in NBA free agency that sometimes you have to catch your breath and try to absorb what has just happened. Probably the biggest news that I haven't yet addressed on here is the Houston Rockets acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Chris Paul and a slew of draft picks. This reunites Westbrook with James Harden, whom he played with in Oklahoma City several seasons back.
While the Rockets are certainly a different looking team than they were last season, it's fair to question whether or not they're really better. While he isn't a perfect player, Paul brought a lot to the table with his facilitating, toughness, and willingness to allow Harden to be the go-to guy. In a lot of ways, he was the most ideal player to pair with Harden because of this combination. The only real flaw in Paul's game is that he's had a tough time staying healthy, but that isn't really fair to pin on him. Especially when you consider the amount of minutes Mike D'Antoni was asking him to play.
That all said, the Rockets weren't winning a championship and so in that vein it makes sense for them to try something different and they are definitely doing just that by bringing in Westbrook. What I want to quickly address is how I think Westbrook fits with the Rockets and whether or not he'll bring forth the results they are looking for.
When comparing Westbrook to Paul, the first thing that jumps out is that Westbrook should bring more of a scoring punch. Westbrook averaged 22.9 points per game last season in comparison to Paul's 15.6 points per game. At times the Rockets did seem to lack scoring support for Harden, making Westbrook an upgrade over Paul in that regard.
As for rebounds, assists, and steals, Westbrook is better than Paul in two of those three categories averaging 11.1 rebounds per game last season compared to Paul's 4.6 and 10.7 assists per game compared to Paul's 8.2. As for steals, Paul has a slight advantage (2.0 per game) over Westbrook (1.9 per game), but it's pretty close to a toss up.
The bottom line is that when looking at the stats, it's clear that Westbrook on paper is a clear upgrade. He's a better scorer, rebounder, facilitator, and just as good of a defender. In that sense, this trade was a no-brainer move for the Rockets to make.
The only thing the Rockets have to worry about is how things will go in the locker room. Westbrook has been known to be a difficult player to play with and he tends to get on guys' nerves with his pit bull personality. If he isn't able to get along with the rest of his teammates, tensions could escalate and this whole thing could blow up.
What should give Rockets fans' some optimism is the fact that the Rockets wouldn't have made this move without Harden's consent and so in that sense there appear to be at least decent to good odds that they actually like each other and will get along just fine. Westbrook is a guy who wants to win as much as anyone else and should view Houston as a place where he can win that elusive NBA title. The Western Conference is wide open and the Rockets should feel like they're in it as much as anyone else. Especially when you consider the fact that they have one of the top big men in the league in Clint Capela.
In my opinion, the Rockets have nothing to lose by swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. They needed some sort of jolt and bringing in an electric talent in Westbrook is as good of a jolt as they could ask for. It may not yield a championship, but considering they weren't heading for a championship with Paul still on board, there's no reason for them to not at least see how things work out with Westbrook. If they didn't do this, they might look back in a couple of years and wonder about what could have been.
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