The Houston Rockets are in a world of trouble.
The Rockets may have traded for Russell Westbrook, but at best, it’s a lateral move. The Rockets have solidified themselves as a playoff team, but they will only be a seven seed, at best.
For starters, James Harden and Westbrook had the top two usage rates last season. These two ran the shows in Houston and Oklahoma City, respectively, so there’s no telling how those personalities will match. Both of them are former MVP’s and are used to being deferred to. There is no telling how those egos will match, but it would not be a stretch to think they will clash before the year is out.
While it is true that both of them played together in Oklahoma City before Harden was traded, that has no bearing on what to expect this year. Both of these players have matured, and their games have become even more ball dominant. The Rockets will literally have to split the ball in half in order to get each player the touches they desire.
Secondly, Westbrook doesn’t fit into head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. D’Antoni’s style is heavily reliant on the three-pointer. Westbrook shot a putrid 29 percent from three last season, and as Brodie’s legs fade, as will his shot. He also shot a career-worst 65.6 percent from the line.
Westbrook has made his money with his superhuman athleticism, but he isn’t getting any younger. And while he is younger than Chris Paul, at least Paul could shoot it from deep. Westbrook just doesn’t fit the system.
Finally, there are the playoff reputations of these two stars. First of all, teams led by guards rarely, if ever, get to the NBA Finals, never mind win it. The Rockets are trying to build from just the guard position, a task that is far from enviable.
Harden and Westbrook have each made the Finals once, together in 2012. Since then, fans have watched Harden shrink in big elimination games against the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, while Westbrook has been bounced from the first round for three straight years, only getting four playoff wins in the process.
Daryl Morey has pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table. Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Rockets, demands results. But this Houston team had its window two years ago when they won over 60 games and took the Warriors to the brink. But now, this move for Westbrook reeks of desperation, and Houston stands only to suffer as a result.