Since losing in the second round of the NBA playoffs in September, the Houston Rockets have gone through monumental changes. Coach Mike D’Antoni stepped down, and long-time general manager Daryl Morey exited a few weeks ago. D’Antoni is now serving as an assistant coach on the Brooklyn Nets coaching staff, and Morey is working in the front office of the Philadelphia 76ers. Meanwhile, the Rockets are left picking up the pieces.
With so much change you’d think the Rockets were about to enter a rebuild. However, with a cash-strapped roster centered around All-Stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, this team is still in championship mode as long as those two stars are around. Some more big changes could be afoot, though, after reports surfaced of Westbrook’s discontent with the franchise. He reportedly wants out if changes aren’t made to the team culture.
The Charlotte Hornets surfaced last week as a potential landing spot for the former league MVP, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. As a Jordan brand athlete, the connection makes sense for Westbrook to go play for Michael Jordan’s team, and the Hornets have some moveable contracts to make the deal work as well as draft capital. However, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports that while Charlotte covets Westbrook, it is unwilling to part with the No. 3 overall pick in Wednesday’s draft, which Houston would want in any trade package for the All-Star guard.
It’s going to take a sizable haul to trade Westbrook given the remaining three years and $131.5 million left on his contract, and there’s few teams in the league that have the cap space to take that amount of money on.
Westbrook reportedly wants to return to the role as floor general, similar to his days in Oklahoma City, but there aren’t many contending teams in need of a point guard. Our own Sam Quinn ranked the top five trade destinations for him, but only two of them made the playoffs a season ago, and one of those teams was the Orlando Magic.
If Westbrook were traded to Charlotte, though, he would automatically become the focal point of the offense in the starting point guard spot, and while the Hornets do have promising young players in Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington, you would have to think that Houston would want at least one of those two players, in addition to perhaps Terry Rozier, who has playoff experience from his time with the Boston Celtics. Charlotte also has the expiring contracts of Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller to work with, both of whom could be of interest to the Rockets. But if the Hornets aren’t willing to give up the No. 3 pick, then it appears that negotiating may be irrelevant.
Courtesy: CBS Sports