The Western Conference's makeover continued in dramatic fashion Thursday.
The Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly traded star point guard Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and a haul of first-round draft picks, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 12, 2019
The reported trade comes the same week the Thunder announced they traded forward Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and a package of first-round picks. Westbrook reportedly was open to a trade after George's departure, and sources told Wojnarowski that Westbrook's "preferred destination" was to reunite with former Oklahoma City teammate James Harden.
The duo starred for the Thunder from 2009 through 2012, before Harden -- then largely limited to a role as the Thunder's sixth man -- was traded to the Rockets. Their last season together resulted in an NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat, who at the time boasted LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James has played for two teams (Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers) since, while Wade and Bosh are retired.
Paul, 34, is under contract for three more seasons and a cap hit of just shy of $40 million annually. Paul spent much of his first two seasons with the then-New Orleans Hornets playing in Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but his future in OKC is uncertain.
Paul's agent will talk with Thunder general manager Sam Presti about next steps for CP3, which could include a potential partnership in Miami with Jimmy Butler, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick.
Source, to the @TheAthletic: Chris Paul's agent, Leon Rose, will talk to OKC GM Sam Presti in the coming days to determine what's next. If CP wants to go to Miami to join Jimmy Butler, it's clear there's a deal to be done there. The Thunder would engage and have interest.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 12, 2019
Harden and Westbrook are two of the NBA's most ball-dominant guards, and how the once-and-current teammates fit alongside one another remains to be seen. Still, it's clear that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey intended to strike in the now wide-open Western Conference. Kevin Durant's departure from the Warriors and Klay Thompson's torn ACL created the opening, while Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) and Anthony Davis (Lakers) heading to Los Angeles likely added urgency.
Westbrook is four years younger than Paul, but his game has showed signs of slowing down. His free-throw attempts per game (6.2) decreased for the second consecutive season, as did his free-throw and 3-point percentages. Westbrook relies on athleticism, and it's fair to wonder if he can continue to do so as he continues to age into his 30s.
The Rockets adding Westbrook doesn't dramatically alter the West's power structure, as Houston figured to be formidable whether he or Paul was running the point. If the Warriors and Rockets meet for the third straight postseason and the fifth playoff series in the last six years, Golden State's roster turnover might have left them vulnerable to Houston anyway.
But the Warriors no longer appear to be the West's best, and Morey is rolling the dice to see if one more shake-up gets the Rockets over the hump.