It wasn’t too way back that the Houston Rockets eradicated the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder of their first-round matchup. It took the complete seven video games for Houston to take action, however in the long run, they received the job completed.
Why does it one way or the other really feel, nonetheless, that the Thunder had a significantly better marketing campaign than the Rockets? Maybe much more importantly, why does it appear to be it’s the Thunder which have emerged because the clear winners of that Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul swap that went down greater than a 12 months in the past?
For the document, when the Rockets traded for Westbrook previous to the beginning of the 2019-20 marketing campaign, they’d to surrender Paul, a 2021 first-round choose swap, a 2024 first-round choose, a 2025 first-round choose swap, and a 2026 first-round choose.
On the time it seemed like an affordable gamble for the Rockets, who had been in a position to offload Paul’s large contract in change for the chance to pair two former MVP winners in Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Nevertheless, at this level, it appears that evidently the tables have turned.
First off, Chris Paul is at present owed $86.6 million over the following two seasons, together with a participant choice for the 2021-22 marketing campaign. Quite the opposite, Westbrook nonetheless has three years on his contract (participant choice on 12 months 3), throughout which he’ll earn $131.5 million. Each gamers might be paid nearly the identical quantity per season, however the Rockets have taken an additional (undesirable?) 12 months for Russ.
Extra importantly, although, it could possibly be argued that Paul had a greater season than Westbrook, particularly when incorporating the playoffs.
In the course of the common season, Westbrook averaged 27.2 factors on a career-best 47.2-percent taking pictures to associate with 7.9 rebounds, 7.zero assists, and 1.6 steals per sport. These numbers had been a far cry from his triple-double days, however they definitely had been stellar and he had a number of months the place he actually seemed dominant after a sluggish begin.
Then again, Paul put up 17.6 factors on 48.9 % from the sphere, 5.zero rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per sport. He additionally drained 1.6 triples per sport on a 36.5 % clip.
Taking a look at these base statistics, Westbrook has the sting. Nevertheless, in the event you transcend the field rating, it’s clear that Paul had a a lot larger impression on his crew than Westbrook had.
Whereas Westbrook proved that he might excel in a system the place he performed second fiddle to a different celebrity on the crew, it was Paul who fully turned the season round for a Thunder aspect that was anticipated to be in rebuild mode after buying and selling away Westbrook and Paul George.
From being given nearly no likelihood to make the playoffs this season, the Thunder had been in a position to safe the fifth seed in a ruthless Western Convention. Chris Paul is broadly credited for OKC’s overachievements this season. He purchased into former head coach Billy Donovan’s plans for the Thunder, and he emerged because the tenured chief this crew wanted him to be.
The outcomes had been merely wonderful, and CP3 was probably the most clutch participant on probably the most clutch crew within the NBA. Whereas the clutch magic ran out in that Recreation 7 towards the Rockets, the truth that Paul and the Thunder received it to that time was fairly an accomplishment.
The identical can’t be mentioned about Russell Westbrook, who misplaced his method when the Rockets wanted him most. He did contract COVID-19 and suffered a quad harm in the course of the restart, so a few of his struggles are comprehensible. He missed greater than half of the first-round collection towards the Thunder and struggled when he did play, however for probably the most half, he seemed comparatively wholesome within the second spherical towards the Los Angeles Lakers.
His numbers didn’t look the half, although. In 5 video games towards the Lakers, Westbrook’s scoring dropped to 19.Eight factors per contest on 42.four % taking pictures. He had a formidable 30-point scoring outburst within the Recreation Three loss, however he additionally had two 10-point duds in Video games 2 and 5, throughout which he shot a mixed 8-of-28 from the ground. He additionally turned the ball over seven instances in Recreation 2.
One of many major causes behind Westbrook’s success within the common season (particularly towards the latter a part of the marketing campaign) was his determination to desert the 3-point shot. This hasn’t precisely been certainly one of his largest strengths all through his profession, and the way he opted to take much less of them (he averaged simply 2.Three makes an attempt per contest in January and March vs. his common of 5.6 triples in his final three seasons with the Thunder) labored wonders for him in Houston.
Nevertheless, for some purpose, Westbrook appeared to have reverted again to his outdated self, trying 5.four treys per sport towards the Lakers. He shot a depressing 25.9 % from distance, which undeniably performed an enormous function in his subpar exhibiting within the second spherical. A few of it seemingly needed to do with the truth that L.A. dared him to shoot by typically simply not guarding him from past the arc, and he obliged by firing away.
One other factor that can not be ignored on this blockbuster commerce from final 12 months is the additional property the Rockets gave as much as get Westbrook. This got here within the type of these two first-round picks and two first-round choose swaps, which now appears to be like like a nasty transfer from their finish.
Mike D’Antoni simply introduced he’s leaving the Rockets, and individuals are already speaking in regards to the thought of buying and selling Westbrook. For his half, James Harden goes to be 32 subsequent 12 months, so he doesn’t have many prime years left.
Ought to the Rockets decide to do a tender rebuild round Harden inside the subsequent 12 months or so, or do a full revamp not lengthy after that, making a gift of these first-round picks will look even worse for them and higher for OKC. Moreover, the Thunder may truly be capable of get much more property in the event that they commerce Paul this offseason after he rebuilt his worth.
All issues thought-about, wouldn’t it be protected to say that the Rockets turned out to be the losers within the Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul commerce? Maybe Russ winds up turning issues round for Houston, however the reply to that query at this level looks like a convincing sure.
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