Thunder trade Russell Westbrook to Rockets for Chris Paul

It turns out the big NBA moves weren’t done after all.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, according to an ESPN report.

This is just another major step in the Thunder’s complete rebuild. In Oklahoma City’s three trades of Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant (shipped to the Denver Nuggets), the team has accumulated seven additional first-round picks lined up through 2026 — plus four pick swaps, according to ESPN.

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It hasn’t been a week since the Thunder traded George to the Clippers to form a super tandem with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles. Oklahoma City snagged a high number of draft picks, along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, in that deal.

According to the ESPN report, Westbrook wanted to reunite with James Harden, and Thunder general manager Sam Presti worked with Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher, to make that happen.

This comes on the heels of a Yahoo Sports report that recently stated the relationship between Harden and Paul was “unsalvageable.” They reportedly went nearly two months without speaking during the season, creating a toxic environment not only for their Rockets teammates, but for everyone involved in the franchise.

“We’re excited to have Russell Westbrook,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told Houston’s Fox 26. “I would watch him play for Oklahoma City, and he’s so athletic. At the same time, this franchise just had the two years with the most wins it’s ever had in consecutive years, and we wouldn’t have accomplished that without Chris Paul. Chris Paul is unbelievable, and he’s going to be sadly missed.”

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Oklahoma City could keep working to find a new team for the 34-year-old veteran Paul, league sources told ESPN. Paul has three years, $124 million left on his contract — one year fewer than Westbrook would have had on the Thunder’s books. If Oklahoma City decides to keep Paul, they would have a solid lineup that currently includes him, center Steven Adams and former Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari.

The Knicks were a potential landing spot for Westbrook, but the Post’s Marc Berman reported that after the team’s bevy of free-agent signings, they wouldn’t have had cap space to absorb Westbrook’s supermax contract, which has him slated to make $37.5 million next season. The Knicks’ free agents couldn’t have been worked into a trade until Dec. 15 under the rules of the NBA collective bargaining agreement.

Paul is a nine-time All-Star, Westbrook an eight-time selection. Paul has 9,181 career assists, the most among active players. Westbrook has 138 triple-doubles, tied with Magic Johnson for second-most in NBA history behind only Oscar Robertson’s 181.

Westbrook and Harden were Thunder teammates for three seasons, the last of those in 2011-12 when that duo and Kevin Durant took Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals. They lost in five games to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, and Harden departed that summer for Houston — where he’s been an All-Star ever since.

— with AP

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