NEW YORK (AFP) – Russell Westbrook has been traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and two first-round NBA draft picks, according to multiple reports Thursday.
The Houston Chronicle and ESPN, each citing unnamed sources, reported the agreement, the latest blockbuster move in an NBA off-season of major relocations for NBA stars and huge lineup changes for many clubs.
Eight-time All-Star Westbrook, the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player, will be reunited with 2018 NBA MVP James Harden, his former Thunder teammate who was traded to the Rockets in 2012.
Harden and Westbrook had wanted to reunite the backcourt tandem they enjoyed for three seasons with the Thunder.
“It’ll be very interesting and fun,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told Houston’s Fox 26 TV. “James and Russell wanted to play together.”
“I said at the end of the year we’re never going to stand pat. We’re always going to try to get better. I think this makes us a better team. I hate to lose Chris Paul, but we felt like we did what we had to do to become a better team.”
Paul, who at age 34 could be looking at yet another trade deal, according to reports, joins a rebuilding Thunder squad along with Houston’s first-round NBA Draft selections in 2024 and 2026 as well as the right for the Thunder to swap first-round picks with the Rockets in 2021 and 2025.
Harden has led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons, averaging 36.1 points a game this past campaign.
Westbrook has averaged triple doubles for the past three seasons, this past campaign producing 22.9 points and career highs of 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists.
Together, Harden, 29, and Westbrook, 30, form a super pairing as potent as any in the Western Conference, which now includes last month’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and ex-Thunder star Paul George with the Los Angeles Clippers, plus LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Add improved teams in Denver, Utah and Portland and Stephen Curry-led Golden State — NBA finalists the past five years — and the Western Conference next season figures to be up for grabs after years of dominance by the Warriors.