The Oklahoma City Thunder traded guard Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for guard Chris Paul and a pair of first-round draft picks, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.
FILE PHOTO: Basketball – NBA Global Games – Brooklyn Nets v Oklahoma City Thunder – Arena Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico December 7, 2017. Allen Crabbe of Brooklyn Nets and Russel Westbrook of Oklahoma City Thunder in action. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
The Thunder will receive the Rockets’ first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 and the option to swap picks in 2021 and 2025, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 are top-4 protected. The 2021 swap is also protected 1-4, with the Thunder allowed to swap either of their first-rounders received from the Los Angeles Clippers or Miami Heat. The 2025 swap is protected from 1-20.
The move reunites Westbrook, 30, with former Thunder teammate and reigning NBA scoring champion James Harden. They played together for three seasons from 2009-12, making the playoffs all three years and reaching the NBA Finals in 2012.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reports Harden was “a driving force” in the trade, and that Westbrook and Harden decided they wanted to join forces again. MacMahon also reported that tension between Harden and Paul — which has been reported extensively by multiple media outlets — did not factor into Houston’s decision to make the trade.
Paul, 34, returns to Oklahoma City, where he played his first two NBA seasons (2005-07) when the New Orleans franchise was temporarily relocated after Hurricane Katrina.
An eight-time All-Star and two-time NBA scoring leader, Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the third straight season in 2018-19 with 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and a league-high 10.7 assists in 73 games. He has four years and $171.2 million remaining on his contract, including a $47.1 million player option for 2022-23.
A nine-time All-Star and four-time league assists leader, Paul averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 58 games last season. He has three years and $124.1 million remaining on his contract, including a $44.2 million player option in 2021-22.
According to Wojnarowski, the Rockets tried to find a third team in the deal where Paul would have preferred to land, but were unable to do so. Oklahoma City is now expected to explore potential deals for Paul, with Miami a possibility, Wojnarowski reported.
The trade is the second blockbuster deal and the third overall involving the Thunder in the last week alone. They shipped Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks and the rights to two pick-swaps last Friday, and then dealt Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for a 2020 first-round pick on Monday.
Through the three deals, Oklahoma City has added a total of eight first-round picks and rights to swap for four more. The full list:
-2020 (from Nuggets, top-10 protected)
-2021 (from Heat via Clippers)
-2022 (from Clippers)
-2023 (from Heat via Clippers, lottery protected)
-2024 (from Clippers)
-2024 (from Rockets, top-4 protected)
-2026 (from Clippers)
-2026 (from Rockets, top-4 protected)
-2021 (with Rockets, top-4 protected; can send back Clippers or Heat pick)
-2023 (with Clippers)
-2025 (with Rockets, top-20 protected)
-2025 (with Clippers)
Meanwhile, the Thunder’s sudden shift into rebuilding mode could help them retain their first-round picks in 2020 (top-20 protected, traded to Philadelphia two years ago) and 2022 (lottery protected, traded to Atlanta in 2018). The Thunder still own all of their other future first-round picks, meaning they currently hold a maximum of 15 first-round picks from 2020-26, with the rights to swap in four of those years.