Well, it happened again. Following a promising offseason and a lot of expectations last summer, both the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers are back home after disappointing efforts in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Some people expected the Rockets to go home as they had to face the Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook wasn’t at full strength, while the NBA community was surprised beyond disbelief when the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets.
It’s clear that both teams have something special going on. However, it’s also clear that they just can’t win with the way their rosters are shaped right now and that they must do a couple of moves this offseason if they want to win an NBA Championship.
Thus, we must address the elephant in the room for both teams. For Houston, Russell Westbrook and James Harden just aren’t a good fit together. It was clear when they shared the court with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma and it was even clearer this season.
Yes, Westbrook gives you another driver and creator and allows Harden to get a breather on the bench but the Rockets don’t play the same way with him on the court and it truly hurts them in terms of spacing, let alone his poor shot selection.
As for the Clippers, sometimes it felt like having Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the team was redundant and unnecessary. They already have enough guys who can score and very solid defenders, so perhaps they could try and get some of the picks they gave up for him back.
Trade package: Russell Westbrook and a 1st round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Paul George and Landry Shamet
So, why would the Clippers want to part ways with Paul George just one year after giving away that many assets for him? Well, while Russell Westbrook isn’t exactly the greatest playoff performer of all time, George’s struggles in the postseason are worrisome, to say the least.
But more than that, you have to take a look at his contract. He can walk away after the 2021/22 season or force a move a year before that. Westbrook will be under contract for longer and this time, ironically, that could actually be a good thing.
Also, the Clippers gave up 5 first-round picks plus two pick-swaps, so getting at least one in return would be great for them. Houston knows no one is going to absorb Westbrook’s massive deal without draft assets in return, even if they already gave up a lot to trade him for Chris Paul.
It’s also worth noting that the Clippers’ offense was stagnant and predictable at times. Patrick Beverley is a great defender but not much of a creator, and having Russell Westbrook running the offense for them would allow them to play at a higher-pace and excel in the pick-and-roll.
The Rockets would get another star next to James Harden that perfectly fits their timeline and stay of play. Paul George has already embraced his role as a second gunman and he can provide a lot of shooting and solid defense for them as well.
Landry Shamet would give the Rockets another shooter and facilitator for their high-octane offense and he could easily play off the ball with Harden running the point again.