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Rumor: Rockets could trade Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 25: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets reacts after he was called for a foul against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on December 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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The Rockets traded two lightly protected first-round picks and two protected first-round swaps for an aging guard who’s highly reliant on athleticism and has a duplicative skill set with their incumbent star.

How’s that going?

Russell Westbrook hasn’t provided the desired upgrade over Chris Paul. Houston has performed better when James Harden plays without Westbrook than when Harden plays with Westbrook. Westbrook-led lineups have struggled when Harden sits.

Though unloading Paul’s contract was essential to the trade, the Rockets certainly hoped Westbrook would help them more.

Ryen Russillo of The Ringer:

I think Westbrook is available. We can talk about semantics Of course, Daryl Morey would trade anyone if he thought it made his team better. Of course, he would trade Westbrook if he could get off of that long-term money, if he thought the assets, the sum of the parts was better than having somebody that’s considered a top-10 player.
Is Daryl Morey actively calling people, saying, “Hey, I’ve got to dump Westbrook?” Well, of course, he wouldn’t do it that way. But there are people who believe Westbrook is available and that Daryl knows, “I’ve got to figure something out here.”
I’m sure people will deny this after they hear it on the podcast. I don’t care.

Russillo is right: Morey would trade anyone. By acknowledging that, Russillo gains credibility for this report. He seems to be implying there’s more to this. Still, I’m not convinced his sources are giving proper heft to Morey’s trade-anyone style. These are the types of things that could get lost in trade-rumor telephone.

Finding a Westbrook trade won’t be easy. The 31-year-old is earning $38,506,482 this season and due $132,633,438 over the next three years. That’ll dissuade other teams. Harden also wanted Westbrook in Houston and might not appreciate his friend getting dealt. That creates internal complications.

All along, the Rockets traded for Westbrook to boost their championship chances. The tough part: Houston won’t see how Harden and Westbrook perform together in the playoffs until after the trade deadline. The regular season reveals only so much. It’s on Morey to make an early judgement with limited information.

Is Morey actually looking more seriously into moving Westbrook than a typical player? Perhaps. But given the challenges of actually trading Westbrook, we might never find out.