Despite the constant presence of top scorer Devin Booker at shooting guard, the Phoenix Suns are in the middle of a lengthy playoff drought, with their 26-39 record barely good enough to qualify them for the restart of the 2019-20 NBA season. Given how the Suns could benefit from a veteran superstar playing alongside Booker and center Deandre Ayton, a recent report recommended a trade that would allow the team to acquire one such player — Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook.
As noted by Bleacher Report‘s Zach Buckley in an article posted Tuesday morning, the Rockets are now at a point where they are a “quick playoff exit away” from making substantial changes. With Houston’s 40-24 record only good for a fifth place tie in the Western Conference, Buckley suggested that the team’s first course of action in the event of a major shakeup should be to trade Westbrook, who has three years and $132.6 million remaining on his contract. Such a deal, he wrote, is “absurd” for any player, especially someone who is 31 years old and known as one of the league’s more athletic point guards.
Due to the fact they have the second-worst record among the 22 teams invited to the NBA’s expected resumption next month, Phoenix only has a very small chance of ending their postseason drought, which is currently at nine consecutive seasons. However, Buckley suggested that acquiring Westbrook and a future second-round pick for a package that includes starting point guard Ricky Rubio, small forward Kelly Oubre Jr., and reserve guard Ty Jerome could be what the Suns need in order to become a competitive team in 2020-21 and beyond.
“Bring the Brodie to the desert and suddenly opposing defenses couldn’t throw the kitchen sink at Booker anymore. Westbrook is mind-numbingly productive—one of two players with career averages of 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds—and his stats have results. He’s been a postseason participant in nine of the last 10 seasons, four of which featured him in at least the conference finals.”
"The Rockets brought in Russell Westbrook to win a championship. They didn't bring him in to go to the 2nd round, 3rd round, or be the 3rd best team in the West. Nothing is on the line for James Harden bc they have no chance to win a championship." — @Chris_Broussard pic.twitter.com/uandYsMKR7
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) June 10, 2020
Westbrook’s positive impact on young stars like Booker and Ayton was mentioned as another reason why Phoenix could benefit from such a trade, should it push forward in the 2020 offseason.
Buckley wrote that acquiring the three Suns players in the theoretical deal could improve the Rockets’ flexibility, even if adding them won’t necessarily qualify as a rebuild. He predicted that Rubio, being a pass-first point guard with an improved three-point shot, will be able to coexist alongside James Harden in the Rockets’ starting backcourt, also noting that Oubre has the potential to flourish in a “threes-or-dunks offense.” As for Jerome, who only had limited playing time in Phoenix, he was described as a good shooter and passer who should get more of an opportunity if moved to Houston.