Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade has big names, but little impact


Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade has big names, but little impact

Insofar as it involves two stars bound for the Hall of Fame and featured on perennial playoff teams, the trade with Russell Westbrook going to Houston and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City is, on paper, of significant magnitude.

As in, wow, quite the blockbuster. The NBA does it again. This league stays ablaze.

But after stripping the veneer of gravity that comes with marquee names, it’s fair to question if there really is much consequence to such a deal, first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. And it’s reasonable to conclude it is not.

Which means, for the Warriors and other Western Conference contenders, the balance of power remains basically where it was before the trade.

Both Paul and Westbrook have given every indication of being past their peaks, even if vanity won’t allow for acceptance.

The Thunder gain in Paul a man whose prime spanned his final four seasons with the New Orleans Hornets (2007-11) and first four with the Los Angeles Clippers (2011-15). High-maintenance and often grouchy, CP3 was, for most of those seasons, the best pure point guard in the NBA.

He also played all 82 games in 2014-15 but has since averaged 63, the totals over the last four seasons declining from 74 to 61 to 58 and 58. He can’t be expected to reverse that trend.

It must be noted, too, that Paul was the “leader” of those talented Clippers teams under Doc Rivers that never advanced beyond the second round -- the worst being the epic collapse in 2015 when they botched a three-games-to-one lead over Houston in the Western Conference semifinals.

Obtaining Paul at this stage of his career is, for OKC, mostly about snagging two more first-round picks (2024 and 2026) at a time when James Harden and Westbrook will be in their mid- and late-30s, if on the Houston roster at all.

The Thunder win the deal because they get those picks while dumping Westbrook, who is owed roughly $170 million over the next four seasons, while Paul is signed for roughly $125 over the next three. Paul will be easier to move, should it come to that, as it probably will.

OKC takes another step toward a rebuild that was initiated a few days ago with the massive haul received in trading Paul George to the Clippers. The Thunder has been a first-round out in the three seasons since Kevin Durant left in 2016 and now the playoffs are out of view.

The Rockets now get to figure out, once again, how to get the most out of two ball-dominant players. The Harden-Paul duo was not a rousing success, and it’s hard to imagine the Harden-Westbrook duo being much more prosperous.

There was a time when Harden and Westbrook were a devastating combination, two basketball outlaws that, along with Kevin Durant, appeared capable of owning the NBA for the next five or six seasons. That core, along with young Serge Ibaka, took the Thunder to the NBA Finals.

That was in 2012, when all three were under 24 and simply not ready for the experience and ruthlessness of the Miami Heat team featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Thunder lost in five and have not been back.

[RELATED: Curry talks KD's departure, Dubs' expectations next season]

The Rockets are hoping Harden-Westbrook will be better than Harden-Paul, and it should be. Westbrook can do more things, more effectively, than Paul. Russ can take over a game, racking up statistics Paul can imagine amassing.

But the needle registering Houston’s chances of winning a championship barely budge with this deal. The Rockets remain a playoff team, as they likely would have been with Paul, with a chance maybe to gain a spot in the seeding.

The one thing we know for sure is that the Rockets will be more fun to watch, for reasons good and bad, than the Thunder. And the front office in OKC won’t mind at all.

Forbes: Warriors one of top 10 most valuable franchises in the world

Forbes: Warriors one of top 10 most valuable franchises in the world

Forbes released its annual NBA franchise valuations back in early February, and the Warriors ($3.5 billion) checked in at No. 3 behind the Lakers ($3.7 billion) and Knicks ($4 billion).

On Monday, the publication issued its "The World's 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams 2019" report and Golden State is in the Top 10:

1) Dallas Cowboys = $5 billion
2) New York Yankees = $4.6 billion
3) Real Madrid = $4.24 billion
4) Barcelona = $4.02 billion
5) New York Knicks = $4 billion
6) Manchester United = $3.81 billion
7) New Englad Patriots = $3.8 billion
8) Los Angeles Lakers = $3.7 billion
9) Golden State Warriors = $3.5 billion
10) New York Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers = $3.3 billion

As Forbes wrote in February:

The Golden State Warriors are leaving Oracle Arena, the NBA’s oldest building, next season for the $1 billion Chase Center. The reigning league champs have secured $2 billion in contractually obligated income from sponsorships, suites and season ticket holder fees for the new arena. Look for the Warriors to challenge the Knicks as the NBA’s leading revenue generator.

[REWINDWarriors have secured unprecedented revenue at Chase Center]

The inaugural event at Chase Center -- a joint performance by Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony -- is slated for Sept. 6. The first basketball game will be an exhibition contest between the Warriors and Lakers on Oct. 5.

Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the franchise for $450 million in 2010.

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Can Rockets replicate success Warriors had with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant?

Can Rockets replicate success Warriors had with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant?

When Kevin Durant first joined the Warriors in 2016, skeptics wondered if Golden State could make it work.

Would Durant and Steph Curry be able to co-exist? Would there be enough shots for Durant, Curry and Klay Thompson? Would everyone remain happy with their role and numbers?

Those questions were answered pretty quickly. It took a few months, but Durant, Curry and the Warriors gelled midway through their first season together. They went on to claim the 2016-17 NBA title and ran it back the next season en route to a sweep in the 2017-18 NBA Finals.

Everyone seemed happy. Everyone got their shots. The third season wasn't as smooth, but it still almost ended with a third consecutive title.

After losing the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, Durant decided it was time to move on and signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

But looking back, the experiment was a success. Durant and Curry co-existed, forming one of the most dominant duos in NBA history. Thompson didn't "sacrifice" as much as people thought he would, and ended up signing a max contract with the Warriors this offseason.

Now, a new duo — James Harden and Russell Westbrook — has critics wondering if the players can co-exist.

Both are MVPs and two of the most ball-dominant players in the NBA. So, will the Houston Rockets' experiment work? Harden believes it will.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out" Harden told The Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. "You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”

Harden used a key word there. Sacrifice.

The players on the Warriors were willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Are Harden and Westbrook capable of making the same sacrifice? Harden is confident their longstanding friendship will help matters.

“It works,” Harden told Feigen. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

While Harden and Westbrook went to the NBA Finals in 2012 as members of the Oklahoma City Thunder, neither has returned since. Both have reached the conference finals in recent years but have gone no further.

Other Western Conference teams have loaded up, but Houston is bringing back a team that is mostly intact from last season and swapped Westbrook for an aging and injury-prone Chris Paul.

So maybe this is finally Houston's year.

[RELATED: Warriors could be 'terrifying' in 2019]

“That’s my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old,” Harden said of Westbrook. “Obviously, we were teammates for [three] years. Now, we’re at different stages of our careers. I’m excited for the opportunity. I hear a lot of negative things: you can’t, he can’t, they can’t. But we’ll figure it out. I’m excited for the opportunity. I know the rest of the organization is. It’s time.”

The Warriors were able to turn the Curry-Durant partnership into two NBA titles. How many titles, if any, the Rockets can grab with Harden and Westbrook is to be determined. But they certainly have the talent to bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to H-Town.