When Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey says he is going to find a way to improve the team’s roster, fans believe him. It isn’t always clear how he is going to do so until he does. But he has proven himself to have a knack for making magic happen.
He did just that recently by acquiring former MVP Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The team had to give up Chris Paul and a few future first-round draft picks, but getting rid of Paul and his contract and acquiring a player of Westbrook’s caliber makes it all worthwhile.
But the question many have been asking since the news of the trade was announced is whether the trade will truly benefit the Rockets. Will Westbrook and Harden be able to coexist? Yes, they did just early in their careers when they both played for the Thunder.
However, it’s been a while. Both have developed into capable players, but also ones that expect to have the ball in their hands. Since the game only uses one ball, that may be kind of hard to do.
Team owner Tilman Fertitta isn’t worried. He thinks the team has done what it set out to do when the offseason got underway—get better.
“I said at the end of the year, ‘We’re never gonna stand pat,'” Fertitta said, via ESPN. “We’re always gonna 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.”
Oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag seem to think the dynamic duo will be able to coexist. They have moved Houston’s odds to win it all next year from +1400 to +800. They have the Clippers favored to win it all still at +350 followed by the Lakers and Bucks at +500.
The Thunder, incidentally, has seen their odds shift from +2800 at the start of the month (and before free agency) to +20000 following the Paul George trade and now out to +50000 after trading Westbrook.
But while Fertitta thinks his team is better and oddsmakers seem to agree, are they a legitimate contender to win it all next year? Not too many are answering that question with a confident ‘yes’—but they should be.
Does Westbrook really fit into the style of offense the Rockets run? No! Of course not! He has never been known for his ability to hit three-pointers. He has averaged 30.8 percent from behind the arc for his career and only hit 29 percent last year.
With practice and coaching, they could improve his shot before next season. But it will likely still not be very good. So, since he doesn’t fit in with the Rockets style of offense, why does adding him make Houston worth betting on?
Houston’s problem the last couple of years has been their reliance on the three. If the shots fall, they win. But if they don’t fall, they often lose. But by acquiring Westbrook, the Rockets do what the Warriors did when they acquired Kevin Durant—diversify their offense.
Westbrook is going to allow Houston to develop a much more dynamic offense than it has had the last couple of years.
Dynamic enough to win it all? Possibly, but the competition in the West is going to be pretty tough next season. But when they start to win games, their odds are going to dip. The +800 they are at now is likely going to be as long as they get.