One of the more surprising deals of the summer had to be when the Rockets traded Chris Paul, only one year into a new max contract, to the now rebuilding Thunder for Russell Westbrook.
There had been murmurs of Paul’s unhappiness in Houston with performance and chemistry, but the Rockets were coming off two seasons where they pushed the Warriors in the playoffs. Earlier in the summer, GM Daryl Morey shut down rumors Paul would be traded and, with Kevin Durant heading to Brooklyn, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the Rockets to possibly get over the hump and win the West.
So when the trade was announced it was an immediate surprise. Westbrook and Harden were paired together again? Paul was being sent to Oklahoma City? How was any of this even possible? Well, according to Daryl Morey it almost wasn’t possible. Morey told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that the deal was very close to not happening. Some last second changes to the deal saved it when both sides decided that they would rather get a deal done than settle with where they were at.
“I thought it was off,” he said. “Then, there were last-minute concessions on both sides. There was a back-and-forth at the end.”
So what were the concessions? While Morey didn’t give that much detail into the discussions he did say at one point that he didn’t think a deal was happening without a third team getting involved.
“It didn’t seem that there would be a fit for both parties,” Morey said. “I told them (Tilman and Patrick Fertitta) quite a bit that it wasn’t going to happen because that’s what I believed. I didn’t think the pieces lined up. That’s why a three-team deal made sense. And I thought other teams would be more involved than we were; teams that had more fits.”
Looking back at the deal, the Rockets had to give up two first round draft picks to make it happen. The Thunder also had to receive Paul’s contract which doesn’t fit with their new timeline. So it would make sense that the concessions that were made is that both sides eventually abandoned adding a third team that was likely meant to take on Paul, which also could’ve provided another asset for OKC that may have saved Houston one of those picks.
When it became clear a third team wasn’t going to materialize the Thunder and Rockets had to decide whether to kill the deal or go ahead and make it happen with just them, with both having to give in a bit. They chose the latter and it led to one of the biggest deals of the offseason.