Russell Westbrook, the current point guard for the Houston Rockets, has requested to be traded and is looking to leave the team in search of a more agreeable environment. Westbrook came to the decision because he wishes to play a more central role on the team he plays for. That request, unfortunately, will not be possible, as the Rockets have placed their trust in point and shooting guard James Harden, who shows more promise in the near future and continues to remain committed to the team. James Harden has been able to lead his team to the conference semifinals, and once to the conference finals without the support of big name players.
In light of this news, the Houston Rockets organization has been looking to handle this situation with care quickly and efficiently during the off-season and hope to be ready come game time. Both players are great. However, Westbrook already has one foot out the door, so the question becomes: What is in the best interest of the Rockets? Should they structure a winning team around Harden, or should they trade him and create a championship team from scratch?
Harden shows more promise for the Rockets in the next few seasons. In the past four years, he has averaged no less than 25 points per game. Westbrook, on the other hand, has an average of no less than 23. Westbrook is better as a supporting role, with higher rebound and assist averages. Getting their start in the Oklahoma Thunder, both players have an impressive playing record. Most notably, Westbrook has 146 triple-doubles under his belt, and Harden has 46, which is still an impressive amount.
That said, it is time for the Rockets to cut ties with these two great players in search of something greater — another NBA title. The Rockets currently have 2 titles from the 1994 and 1995 NBA championships, but they have not returned to the NBA finals since then. Harden has fought ferociously for the Rockets for the past four years, coming close to securing the championship both in 2015 and in 2018 but ultimately losing in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors both times. Harden and Westbrook are both absolute machines on the court and a delight to watch, but at 31 and 32 respectively, they are in the final stages of their prime.
Westbrook is on the way out, and with a $130 million contract still very much in effect, the Rockets can’t hope to make much money nor get a great player in return. A similar situation stands with Harden. The Rockets could wait out Harden’s contract or be smart with their moves. Houston has nothing but time and 2 exceptional players that provide a hidden amount of leverage. If the team’s upper management is smart, they can use these players to get great top first and second round picks in the upcoming NBA drafts and build a stable winning team that could show results for the team and the people of Houston in the upcoming seasons.