The Houston Rockets are among the teams interested in trading for Oklahoma City All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking told ESPN.
One Rockets source, however, described trading for Westbrook as a “long shot” due to the challenge of finding pieces that fit with the Thunder or pulling off a complicated multiteam deal.
In the aftermath of the trade that sent Paul George to the LA Clippers, Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher, engaged with Thunder general manager Sam Presti about the next step of the point guard’s career, including the possibility of a trade before next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
Westbrook, 30, has spent his entire 11-year career in Oklahoma City, but the franchise seems primed for a rebuilding period after receiving a record haul of five future first-round picks and All-Rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the George deal. The Thunder also received forward Danilo Gallinari in the trade, but the veteran versatile scoring threat could be rerouted to another team.
The Athletic reported that the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons also have interest in Westbrook, who averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.9 assists last season, marking the third consecutive campaign he averaged a triple-double.
The interest in Westbrook fits Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s pattern of aggressively pursuing superstars. Houston landed Chris Paul in a sign-and-trade deal with the Clippers two years ago and attempted to add Jimmy Butler under similar circumstances this summer. Butler, however, did not meet with the Rockets before agreeing to a deal with the Miami Heat. The Rockets also had interest in trading for Carmelo Anthony and George before the Thunder dealt for both during the 2017 offseason, and Houston signed Anthony for the veteran’s minimum after he was traded to Atlanta and received a buyout last summer.
A source said that Paul would not necessarily need to be involved in a deal that delivers Westbrook to the Rockets, although his $38.5 million salary is a perfect match with Westbrook’s. Paul has $125 million over three years remaining on his contract, while Westbrook has $171 remaining over four years, including a player option for $46.7 million in 2022-23.
Morey has acknowledged aggressively exploring the trade market this offseason but said recently that Paul and perennial All-NBA guard James Harden are the two players who will definitely return to the Rockets next season.
Center Clint Capela and shooting guard Eric Gordon in particular have been shopped and would have been traded to other teams to make room for Butler, according to sources. Capela, 25, is coming off a season in which he averaged career highs of 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds and is entering the second year of what is considered a team-friendly five-year deal worth $80 million plus incentives. Gordon is a proven scorer (16.2 points per game last season) and underrated defender who is due $14.1 million next season in the final year of his contract.
As unlikely as it may be, a trade that sends Westbrook to Houston would reunite him with Harden, his former Thunder teammate and fellow recent MVP. The Rockets acquired Harden, a sixth man in Oklahoma City, in a trade just before the 2012-13 season after the Thunder decided they did not want to give him a maximum contract.
Westbrook won the MVP in a close vote over Harden in 2016-17, when the Thunder point guard averaged a league-leading 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists, joining Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season. Harden has won the scoring title the past two seasons and the MVP in 2017-18.
Tyson Chandler is also a likely target for the Rockets in their search for backup big, a source told ESPN.
Chandler, who turns 37 in October, was an effective defender and rebounder as a reserve for the Los Angeles Lakers last season. He has a reputation as a great locker room guy and has a strong relationship with Paul from when they played together in New Orleans.