The Houston Rockets had dreams of forming their own Big Three this summer, with their most notable target being Jimmy Butler in a hopeful sign-and-trade with the Sixers.
Butler instead chose to take the sign-and-trade option to go to Miami, where Pat Riley quickly began to lay down plans to find a second star. When Paul George was traded to the Clippers to facilitate the Kawhi Leonard signing, that second star on the trade market became immediately apparent, as Russell Westbrook would not want to stick around for a rebuild.
The Heat became the immediate favorites and were reported as one of Russ’ top destinations. However, Houston was also rumored as a possible trade candidate, but few took it as seriously this time around after they were an apparent non-factor in the Butler talks. Then Thursday evening rolled around and Houston had swapped Chris Paul and some first round picks to OKC for Westbrook, reuniting James Harden with the first point guard with whom he ever played.
Immediately, the reaction around the league was once again that of shock, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, this was Russ’ true preferred destination all along, not Miami, with Brett Dawson confirming.
It was a move few saw coming — most folks were only joking about CP3 for Russ deals — but in the end that’s what happened and Westbrook heads south to Houston to join up with his old, bearded friend.
How they fit together at this point of their careers will be fascinating. Both are ball-dominant, high-usage players, and Westbrook isn’t exactly the efficiency machine Houston typically prefers. However, after Paul and Harden’s relationship reportedly fractured this past season, bringing in someone Harden has a long-time relationship with makes some sense, and they’ll hope that can lead them to the top of a now absolutely ridiculous Western Conference playoff picture.