The Oklahoma City Thunder’s efforts to trade Russell Westbrook took less than a week.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder have agreed to trade the veteran point guard to the Houston Rockets, in exchange for another veteran point guard, Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025.
The trade brings an end to Westbrook’s career with the Thunder, the only NBA team for which he has ever played, and adds two names to the long list of prominent NBA players who have changed teams this offseason.
The deal represents a reunion of Westbrook and James Harden, who played together with the Thunder in the early part of their careers, between 2009 and 2012. Oklahoma City once had Westbrook, Harden, and Kevin Durant all on the same team; Westbrook is the last of that trio to leave the team.
In addition, Paul will once again play in Oklahoma City. When Paul played for the New Orleans Hornets in his first two years in the NBA in 2005 and 2006, the team was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and played their home games in Oklahoma, which got a team of their own a few years later.
Despite rumors that Westbrook preferred to go to Miami, ESPN reported that Westbrook’s “preferred destination” was a reunion with Harden in Houston.
The trade adds to the Thunder’s tremendous stockpile of future first-round draft picks, as the club already obtained several picks in their previous trades of Paul George and Jerami Grant.
“OKC has acquired EIGHT first-round picks since draft night,” Wojnarowski tweeted. “2020: Denver (1-10), 2021: Miami; 2022: LAC; 2023: Miami (1-14), 2024: LAC; 2024: Houston (1-14); 2026: LAC; 2026: Houston (1-4).”
OKC's draft haul for Westbrook comes with protections: https://t.co/DTTw9KDGfh
— Hoops Rumors (@HoopsRumors) July 12, 2019
Westbrook and Paul have two of the largest contracts in the league, although Paul is due to earn less money than the player he is replacing. Both have four years remaining on their contracts. The 34-year-old Paul, though, is four years older than Westbrook.
The Rockets were able to land Westbrook following an offseason in which they had mostly sat out of high-impact moves; Houston was known to have pursued Jimmy Butler before he signed with Miami. The team was able to add Westbrook without giving up Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, or P.J. Tucker, who were mentioned in trade rumors earlier in the offseason.
The Thunder will add Paul to a nucleus that includes guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari, center Steven Adams, and guard Terrance Ferguson. Speculation may center on Paul being traded again eventually, but basketball writer Sam Amick, on Twitter, said that the deal is great for the future of Oklahoma City.
“OKC does this deal with full anticipation that Chris Paul will be part of a good team that now has a treasure trove of future assets,” Amick tweeted.