The likelihood of the Houston Rockets trading Russell Westbrook may have just increased after the departure of the team's longtime general manager, a report claims.
This week, Daryl Morey announced that he was stepping down from his post with the team, charting something of an uncertain future for a franchise that appeared to go all-in when trading for Westbrook in the last offseason. It was Morey who pulled off the deal that shipped out Chris Paul in return for the former NBA MVP, and who led a mid-season transformation into a small-ball approach. The team shipped out center Clint Capela and entered the playoffs with no big men that had significant playing time.
The Rockets were unable to make it beyond the second round of the playoffs, and the general manager's exit may now signal a more significant shift for the franchise, wrote Marc Berman of the New York Post. He wrote that many around the league believe that with his exit, Westbrook may be the next one to go.
"With Houston general manager Daryl Morey stepping down a year after his controversial retweet about China/Hong Kong, league sources believe the Rockets are likelier to look into trading away explosive All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook," he wrote.
With both Westbrook and teammate James Harden over 30 and both with large contracts, rumors are swirling that the Rockets may try to ship out Westbrook and rebuild. As The Inquisitr reported, there already appears to be some interest if Westbrook were to end up on the trade block. The New York Knicks were reportedly interested in a trade if he were to become available, though there would likely be more to the deal. Citing SNY's Ian Begley, the report noted that the Knicks would likely seek another asset in return from the Rockets to help offset the point guard's remaining three years and $132 million on his contract.
Shipping out Westbrook would likely signal that the Rockets would be falling out of title contention, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports predicted. The Rockets are in an increasingly competitive Western Conference and would have to contend with the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers for supremacy, and doing so without Westbrook looks like an uphill battle. But Feldman noted that there could be a scenario where the Rockets ship him away and still find a way to compete -- provided a team offers the right combination of role players to fit around Harden.