After reaching deals to send Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Rockets – with a Jerami Grant trade thrown in the middle for good measure – the Thunder have completed one of the speediest tear-downs in NBA history, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Given the club’s lack of playoff success in recent years, that fresh start was needed, according to Mannix, who adds that it’s hard to imagine that Oklahoma City could have gotten more in return for its two stars.
While the Thunder – who haven’t gone through a rebuilding process since moving to Oklahoma City – didn’t necessarily want to start that process now, some members of the organization think it was “necessary, if not overdue,” per ESPN’s Royce Young, who notes that the team privately viewed the 2019/20 season as its “last, best chance at winning a title.”
As Young details, George’s trade request came as a shock, but it could also be viewed as a gift, since the circumstances surrounding it gave the Thunder tremendous leverage in their negotiations with the Clippers. Westbrook didn’t try to change George’s mind, sources tell Young, and less than a week later, Oklahoma City was able to accommodate an exit path for the former MVP as well.
The Rockets were Westbrook’s clear-cut favorite choice, a league source tells Brett Dawson and Michael Lee of The Athletic, and the longtime Thunder point guard had a significant voice in where he landed. While he also appeared open to being traded to the Heat, trade talks between Oklahoma City and Miami had quieted by Thursday, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
We already rounded up several Rockets-related notes on Thursday’s blockbuster trade agreement that will land Westbrook in Houston and Chris Paul in Oklahoma City, but here are a few more details worth passing along:
- Although the Thunder likely wouldn’t have sent Westbrook to a lottery team anyway, rebuilding clubs with a hole at point guard (or a general need for star talent) expressed little interest in giving up any real assets of value for him, sources tell Zach Lowe.
- In the immediate aftermath of the George trade, Westbrook viewed the Knicks as a potential landing spot, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. It’s not known whether New York was on the list of preferred destinations that Westbrook ultimately provided the Thunder, but if OKC was focused on making a move sooner rather than later, it’s a moot point — the Knicks couldn’t have made a deal until December 15. It’s also not clear if New York had more than “lukewarm” interest in the triple-double machine, Begley adds.
- An individual with knowledge of the talks tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle that Westbrook first broached the topic of a possible trade not long after the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs in the spring. Presumably, if George hadn’t made his own trade request, Westbrook wouldn’t have pushed to be dealt either.
- Westbrook is intrigued by the possibilities that Mike D’Antoni‘s floor-spreading offense could create for him with the Rockets, a source tells Brett Dawson and Michael Lee.
- Having previously reported that the Heat‘s unwillingness to include multiple young players in their offer for Westbrook was a roadblock, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald says the Thunder’s desire to include Andre Roberson‘s unwanted expiring contract in a deal with Miami was another obstacle. While Chris Paul has been mentioned as a possible alternative for the Heat, Jackson sounds skeptical that Miami would do such a deal without getting back at least one draft pick and dumping unwanted contracts, since acquiring Paul’s huge contract would compromise the team’s ability to pursue star players in future offseasons.