The Houston Rockets are in a bit of a mess right now, since reports are coming out about Russell Westbrook's trade request and James Harden's uneasiness about the future of the franchise. Countless playoff failures have caused Mike D'Antoni and Daryl Morey to step down, leaving the Rockets with an entirely new gameplan and management style. For a team that has a ton of money invested in two superstars, this isn't great news.
While it may seem very strange to do so, the Rockets might take a page out of the Oklahoma City Thunder's book and blow it up. The only way to do it is by moving on from both James Harden and Russell Westbrook for packages involving young players and some future draft picks. The Rockets mortgaged their future over the past couple of seasons to "win now", but it might be time for a new rebuild era in Houston. Here is how the Rockets can blow it up and trade both James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Moving On From Russell Westbrook's Albatross Contract
Trade Package: Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Kevin Knox, and Dennis Smith Jr, No. 27 overall pick, 2021 Mavericks pick for Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook had a great season this year with the Houston Rockets, averaging 27.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 7.0 APG while helping the team grab the 4th seed in the Western Conference. He is one of the best point guards in the NBA and his efficient shooting percentages (career-high 47.2% from the field) were a breath of fresh air although he was quite putrid from three (25.8%). Overall, Westbrook is still one of the top 15 players in the NBA and a legitimate MVP candidate.
He just isn't the man for the Rockets right now, because of his on-court clashing with James Harden and also the rumors about his trade request. Westbrook is making an insane amount of money; ($41,358,814, $44,211,146, $47,063,478) over the next 3 seasons, meaning the Rockets will be forced to live with Westbrook's inefficiencies if they don't trade him. Russ won't deliver a title to Houston as things stand, so the best thing to do is move him to a city that craves superstar talent like the New York Knicks.
For the Knicks, they have been lacking a superstar since Carmelo Anthony and have a roster filled with young talent that could be attractive for Houston. The Rockets can strike a deal to move Russ to New York for a host of talented players to help begin the rebuilding process and also rid the franchise from an albatross of a contract. Knicks fans can therefore have something to finally cheer about and enjoy watching Russell Westbrook perform at an MVP level. Meanwhile, the Rockets have greater cap flexibility with picks, a young Kevin Knox, and a very solid Julius Randle (19.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG) to begin the rebuild. With Russ out of the way, it is time to move into franchise superstar James Harden.
The Best Possibly Return For The Beard
Trade Package: Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, No. 19 overall pick for James Harden
There is no way that Houston can manage to get equal value by trading James Harden because you can count the amount of better players in the league on one hand. Harden is easily a top-five talent in the game and he is the sole reason why the Rockets have been title contenders for the past few years. His scoring is unbelievable and he is already drawing comparisons to the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in terms of pure offensive dominance at the shooting guard position. Harden has won the MVP Award but has yet to capture the elusive NBA championship.
But Harden's uneasiness has already been reported and there were too many management changes to ignore. If Harden wants out, Houston should cash in while they can before The Bears hits 32 years of age. Even though Harden has at least a few more seasons at an MVP level, his value is at its absolute peak right now. He is coming off a season where he averaged 34.3 PPG and 7.5 APG while being the first player in a very long time to see triple teams. Harden by himself can win games and that makes him invaluable to any franchise. Therefore, Houston should deliver the final blow to their clear-out and trade James Harden to Brooklyn.
By acquiring Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and the 19th overall pick to pair with Kevin Knox and Julius Randle; Houston's rebuild will be completely underway. Dinwiddie had a career season by averaging 20.6 PPG and 6.8 APG while LeVert also had a great season averaging 18.7 PPG. Jarrett Allen is a double-double threat every night (11.1 PPG and 9.6 RPG) and can slowly develop into an impactful big man with more time in the league. Taurean Prince can be a Trevor Ariza type of forward who can defend and hit the outside shot, so the pieces are there.
Houston will try to make it work with James Harden, but if he is adamant about leaving and if Westbrook is ultimately traded, Houston can strike deals to have a core of 6 young pieces and some much-needed draft picks to begin their rebuild. The Rockets had a historical run of some great moments by superstar players, but the excitement in the Western Conference may be all but over.