Houston Rockets: Russell Westbrook, Rockets could be a perfect match

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

Russell Westbrook and James Harden will create one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history, thanks to an all-in move by the Houston Rockets

The NBA has been in a hectic transformation since the start of free agency back on June 30th. We have seen numerous All-NBA players get traded or sign with a new team this offseason.

After the shocking plot twist that saw the Oklahoma City Thunder trade Paul George to the Clippers to ensure the Los Angeles Clippers landed Kawhi Leonard, we knew soon after that the Russell Westbrook would most likely be traded, and it did not take long. Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps.

At first glance it is perfectly acceptable to question the fit between two very ball-dominate players. Both players turn the ball over at an extremely high rate; Harden and Westbrook were first and second, respectively, in that category this past year.

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On the other hand, Westbrook is without a doubt an upgrade from Chris Paul who has exited his prime. Westbrook is four years younger and has much more to offer than Paul does at his age (34). Both Harden and Westbrook have had historic individual seasons in the past and as they roll into their 30s, they understand the urgency of trying to eliminate the narrative of past playoff failures.

Both players, if they want this to work, are going to have to sacrifice. Playing with each other before, albeit different players at the time, will make it easier for them to willingly coexist on the court and share the load. When they were teammates in OKC, whenever both Harden and Russ were on the court together Harden took over more of the playmaking responsibilities, so there is already a familiarity of sorts for Russ being in that role and letting Harden run the show.

Westbrook and Harden are going to need to improve off the ball instead of just looking disengaged when they are not orchestrating the offense. With Harden running the offense, Westbrook could be an exceptional slasher and when it’s Westbrook’s turn, Harden could be a lethal floor spacer. Defenses will have a tough time stopping the Rockets even if their games don’t change but if they add little wrinkles to it like off ball movement, it could be deadly.

Mike D’Antoni‘s system will also do wonders for Westbrook. There hasn’t been a guard D’Antoni hasn’t made better, say what you want about him, but the man knows how to run an offense. Westbrook, even to his standards, will have the chance to play faster than he already does with a lot more space to operate. The Thunder with Westbrook have historically been a bad 3-point shooting team, even with Kevin Durant.

The Thunder ranked 20th or worse in 3-point percentage over the past five years. Westbrook for the first time will be playing in a system that really suits his game, being able to get downhill with a bunch of shooters and having more space to operate as he runs high pick-and-rolls with Clint Capela.

Now, of course, Westbrook will have to improve his 3-point percentage from the previous year (29%), but with more space to work with than he did in OKC, he and Harden will be  frightening in transition and lethal in the halfcourt to try to guard one-on-one. The Rockets now have two of the best players in the world at getting downhill, creating for others and for themselves.

Over the years, Westbrook has been labeled as a star that is hard to play with. Regardless of the recent trade of Paul George, he was able to put up his best statistical season and finish top 3 in MVP voting playing alongside Westbrook.

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Westbrook and Harden are going to be a nightmare to try to contain night in and night out. With the NBA being as wide open as its been in a long time, don’t count this duo out from making some noise come playoff time.