As trade speculation rises during the NBA offseason, the future of Russell Westbrook has become one of the most intriguing questions. The former MVP is still performing at a superstar level, but that didn’t help Houston get any closer to a championship this year. With Mike D’Antoni gone as the Rockets’ head coach, more change-ups are likely. And while Harden remains the de facto franchise player, Westbrook’s massive contract seems prime for unloading.
If Houston decides to put Russ on the trading table, they could get some major assets in return. Westbrook’s numbers are still strong enough to turn any decent team into a serious playoff contender, and there are several franchises for whom he could be the perfect piece. If the Rockets want to make shifts to cover their clear deficiencies, they need depth and size. Here are five potential deals for Westbrook that could work out great on both ends.
5. Charlotte Hornets
Trade Package: Nicolas Batum, Devonte’ Graham, and Cody Zeller for Russell Westbrook
Houston needs size and depth to complement its scoring potential. Charlotte needs a proven star.
It would be a massive shift in notoriety and talent level for the Hornets, but a trade for Westbrook could be a great match for both sides.
The Rockets could add major depth in Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and Nicolas Batum. Batum would be a great wing addition to Houston on both sides of the floor, and Zeller would give them the competitive size and rim protection they’ve been severely lacking. And if put on a great squad like the Rockets, there’s no telling how good Devonte’ Graham could get.
Charlotte’s acquisition of Westbrook would put them in significantly higher contention with a bonafide superstar, but his presence would mean more than that. Michael Jordan’s team remains one of the league’s most ignored, despite its owner’s larger-than-life status. Westbrook would elevate the Hornets into the public eye in a huge way, while also guaranteeing massive leeps on offense.
4. Phoenix Suns
Trade Package: Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, Frank Kaminsky, and the 10th pick for Russell Westbrook
Phoenix looked amazing in the Orlando bubble. They went 8-0 in the play-in games and only missed the postseason by bad luck. It’s a great look for the Suns going into next year, but it’s not necessarily enough to make them a serious threat in itself. Devin Booker is amazing, but his star power alone may not be sufficient to power Phoenix to postseason success.
Westbrook would be a great acquisition for several reasons. He’s a star point guard who’d open up huge new opportunities for Booker, while also giving Phoenix the second dominant scorer they need. In exchange, Houston would get a veteran playmaker in Ricky Rubio who could mesh great with Harden, as well as Kelly Oubre, some rim protection in Frank Kaminsky, and the Suns’ 10th draft pick.
3. Miami Heat
Trade Package: Andre Iguodala, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk, and the 20th pick for Russell Westbrook
Miami fell just two games short of their fourth championship this season, and they’ll want to carry that moment into another Finals run next year if they can. While the Heat showed fantastic cohesion in the bubble, especially among its budding young stars, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be open to changes if the right player were on the line.
Westbrook could be that player. Miami showed how potent its current roster can be with a scoring threat like Goran Dragić at point guard, and that potential would only be magnified by Westbrook. Offensive opportunities would open up with Jimmy Butler able to play off the ball more, and the two All-Stars could combine with Bam Adebayo to form a killer big three.
Of course, to land Westbrook, the Heat would have to give up a lot, including future potential in breakout star Tyler Herro and the 20th draft pick, as well as major role players in Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk, and Andre Iguodala. Getting Russ would have one goal – a championship run next year. And he could be Miami’s best bet to pull it off.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Trade Package: Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, and the 21st pick for Russell Westbrook
Philadelphia and Houston are in pretty comparable situations at the moment. Both teams will have new head coaches going into next season after several years of big promises ended in disappointment. As big of a shift as it may seem, the two teams could potentially help each other with a major trade.
Jalen Rose has said Philly should offer up Joel Embiid for Westbrook, but Ben Simmons might make more sense. Harden has suggested he wants more playmaking potential by his side in Houston, and Philly could use the volume scoring and veteran presence of Russ. He’s similar to Simmons in many ways – major driving, finishing, and playmaking skills without much in the way of a perimeter threat. The real exchange would be Russ’s experience and heightened scoring for Simmons’s youth and defensive prowess.
The question is whether Doc Rivers and the Philly front office think Russ has the potential to make them an immediate championship threat next year. If not, giving up Simmons doesn’t make much sense. But if the Sixers are ready to gamble on a Westbrook/Embiid duo, Houston may jump at the chance. Simmons would be excellent setting up shots for the Rockets’ marksmen, and his own lack of a three-point shot wouldn’t matter nearly as much.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Trade Package: Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, and the 28th pick for Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers proved their chops this year, but the league isn’t going to get any easier with Steph, Klay, Kyrie and KD all returning. Plus, a Ty Lue-led Clippers may be able to deliver on the promise this year’s squad fell short of. LeBron and AD are fantastic, obviously, but they may not be enough for LA to go back-to-back.
The addition of Westbrook would create a dominant big three for the Lakers, with Russ able to give LeBron a break on offense or play off the ball. Defenses would be scattered trying to protect against all three All-Stars in the half-court, and LA’s scoring output would be through the roof. With so many superstars returning after hiatuses this past season, Russ could be one of the Lakers’ best chances at nabbing a repeat title.
The deal would be great for Houston too, as they’d receive a slew of great role players in exchange for Russ’s hefty contract. Danny Green, Alex Caruso and Avery Bradley would be excellent defensive and floor-spreading additions, and Kyle Kuzma could keep developing into a solid offensive option. The Rockets would add substantial depth, size, and defense going into next season.