Rockets 2020 NBA Title Odds Shorten After Westbrook Trade
It’s safe to say the 2019 NBA offseason will never be topped in terms of chaos and drama. That much was true even before Thursday’s bombshell of a trade, with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook.
The Rockets will also send two first-round draft picks in the deal, and the Thunder can swap firsts with Houston in two additional years.
Oddsmakers immediately shortened the Rockets’ 2020 championship odds from +1000 to +800 in the wake of the news. They’re still well behind the Clippers (+280) and Lakers (+380) but moved ahead of the Sixers (+900) and Warriors (+1000) to give them the third-best odds in NBA Finals betting.
It’s yet another shakeup of the Western Conference for fans of NBA betting, who have seen the Clippers, Lakers and Jazz make major additions this offseason.
You can now add the Rockets to that list after acquiring the eight-time All-Star who averaged a triple-double last season for the third consecutive year.
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Paul still has plenty of career left in him after averaging 15.6 points and 8.2 assists in 58 games for the Rockets. But Westbrook is a clear upgrade at this point in their respective careers.
Westbrook is four years younger than Paul and has played 5,000 fewer minutes. Westbrook wasn’t all that inefficient last season but he’s still one of the game’s most lethal players after averaging 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and an NBA-best 10.1 assists last season.
He’s a high-level player and a change of scenery with real championship aspirations could give him a new outlook. He’ll also give the Rockets a different look from what Paul gave them the last two seasons.
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How Will Westbrook Fit 3-Point-Happy Rockets?
It remains to be seen how Mike D’Antoni will make a Westbrook and James Harden combination work, which is likely why Houston’s championship odds didn’t take a major leap.
Those two players have had the ball in their respective team’s hands over the last five seasons more than any other player.
Over the last 5 seasons, Russell Westbrook and James Harden rank 1st and 2nd in usage rate. https://t.co/CXrerZiRYp— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 12, 2019
Someone, likely Westbrook given Harden’s status as the face of the Rockets franchise, will need to take a backseat.
Westbrook doesn’t exactly play well as a second fiddle, though he did at times defer to Paul George last season in Oklahoma City.
The fact that Westbrook and Harden are good friends who played together in Oklahoma City for three seasons should help. Also, Harden reportedly was the “driving force” behind the trade happening, so it’s clear he’s happy with the blockbuster deal.
James Harden was a driving force in this deal, I’m told. Russell Westbrook and Harden decides they wanted to reunite and Rockets made it happen despite some questions about fit now that Harden is so ball dominant. Houston believes ceiling is higher with Russ than CP3.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) July 12, 2019
The on-court fit may be a bigger puzzle piece to fill. The Rockets attempted and made more 3-pointers than any team in NBA history last season and have built their current roster around doing so.
Westbrook was one of the NBA’s worst 3-point shooters last season, making just 29% of his triples on 5.6 attempts per game.
In fact, Westbrook’s percentage from deep was the fourth worst of all-time for players who attempted five or more 3-pointers per game. It’s tough to see him improving his perimeter game in his 12th NBA season, but he may have to.
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About the Author
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.