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Rumor: Rockets could trade Russell Westbrook; Clippers and Knicks interested

Russell Westbrook vs. Clippers

HOUSTON, TEXAS - MARCH 05: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets goes up for a dunk while defended by Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers in the second half at Toyota Center on March 05, 2020 in Houston, Texas. 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 Tim Warner/Getty Images)

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The Rockets were reportedly more likely to trade Russell Westbrook after Daryl Morey resigned.

Now, that rumor is progressing with a couple possible trade destinations – Clippers and Knicks.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

It is interesting the last 24 hours. I did have multiple sources that I trust tell me that teams believe Russell Westbrook could be had, that Westbrook could be had. And I’ve heard the Clippers have interest. I’ve heard the Knicks have interest in Westbrook. And whether anything materializes there, who knows? Who knows? But the fact is is that there is a belief that a guy like Westbrook could become available.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said, “We’re not blowing up anything. We plan on contending.” But James Harden – and only James Harden – is Houston’s centerpiece. Everyone around him is fungible.

That said, Westbrook leads the supporting cast. The Rockets even turned to micro-ball last season to compensate for Westbrook’s inability to spread the floor through outside shooting. But Houston is already talking about adding centers to (at least sometimes) play more traditionally. Maybe Westbrook will no longer fit as well.

The Clippers could use a point guard. But does Westbrook really complement Kawhi Leonard and Paul George? Though he adjusted to a lower-usage role while playing with Harden, Westbrook is still quite ball-dominant. Westbrook’s attacking style could flummox defenses as Leonard and George space from the perimeter. But the balance could (again) be off, as Westbrook can be too aggressive with the ball while playing with a star willing to defer. The Clippers would also be challenged to match Westbrook’s high salary without shedding so much depth that a trade is no longer worthwhile. Urgency leads to moves like that, though.

The Knicks have previously been linked to Westbrook. They’ll at least have the cap space to more easily acquire him. Still, perhaps New York – not close to contention – shouldn’t acquire a 32-year-old guard with health issues and $132,932,520 remaining on his contract.

A couple possibilities:

  • New on the job, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is talking Westbrook trades only to gauge Westbrook’s value around the league. Stone doesn’t necessarily intend to actually trade Westbrook. But engaging other teams is a great way to gain critical information.
  • There have been rumors about Fertitta’s financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps, teams are inquiring whether they can poach Westbrook – maybe even seeking sweeteners for taking that large contract. That doesn’t mean Houston would go for it.

So, it’s far easier to see Westbrook trade discussion than an actual Westbrook trade. But once teams get talking, you never know.