The Houston Rockets traded for Russell Westbrook last summer in hopes that pairing him with James Harden would strengthen their chances of fully dominating the Western Conference and winning the 2020 NBA championship. Unfortunately, despite having two former MVPs on their roster, they were still unable to win the title as they ended up suffering a second-round exit in the Playoffs. Though the Rockets are highly unlikely to consider a full-scale rebuild at this point, there have been growing calls around the league for them to get rid of Westbrook this fall.
In a recent article, Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report created a list of trade ideas to break up “bad superstar fits” in the 2020 offseason. For the Rockets, Hughes suggested that they consider sending Westbrook to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. Though it wouldn’t replenish the star power that they will lose from trading “The Brodie” to Orlando, the proposed scenario would still make a lot of sense for the Rockets.
Aside from getting Westbrook’s massive contract off their books, it would also enable them to acquire two quality role players in Gordon and Fournier that would help Harden keep the Rockets competitive in the loaded Western Conference next year.
“On the Rockets’ end, Gordon makes perfect sense as a similarly rangy and switchy forward with Robert Covington, and Fournier’s scoring and serviceable playmaking figure to complement Harden’s ball dominance better than Westbrook’s ‘pound-the-dribble and shoot an errant 18-footer’ style did. Fournier is a career 37.5 percent shooter from distance, and he canned 39.9 percent of his treys last year. Remarkably, Gordon is also a superior three-point marksman than Westbrook—on similar per-game volume, no less. The Rockets will also love the fact that Fournier’s deal expires after 2019-20, while Gordon only has $16.4 million coming his way in 2021-22.”
Gordon and Fournier would undeniably be intriguing additions to the Rockets. Gordon would give the Rockets a very reliable scoring option in their wing, while Fournier would provide them with a starting-caliber shooting guard who fits Harden’s game. However, if they have the power to control the fate of the deal, they should try convincing the Magic to include Nikola Vucevic or Mo Bamba in the trade package.
Meanwhile, though it would have a tremendous effect on their salary cap flexibility, the potential deal would be a no-brainer for the Magic as it would allow them to hit two birds with one stone. Aside from helping them address the logjam in their frontcourt, the successful acquisition of Westbrook would also give them a legitimate superstar that would solve their weakness at the point guard position. Westbrook alone may not be enough to make them an instant title contender, but his arrival would make the Magic a team to watch out for in the Eastern Conference next year.