Since losing in the second round of the NBA playoffs in September, the Houston Rockets have gone through monumental changes. Coach Mike D’Antoni stepped down, and long-timer general manager Daryl Morey exited a few weeks ago. D’Antoni is now serving as an assistant coach on the Brooklyn Nets coaching staff, and Morey is working in the front office of the Philadelphia 76ers. Meanwhile, the Rockets are left picking up the pieces.
With so much change you’d think the Rockets were about to enter a rebuild. However, with a cash-strapped roster centered around All-Stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, this team is still in championship mode, as it has been for the past five years. Some more changes could be afoot, though, after reports surfaced of Westbrook’s discontent with the franchise. He reportedly wants out if changes aren’t made to the team culture.
While it would take a sizable haul to trade Westbrook given the remaining three years and $131.5 million left on his contract, if he is shipped off there are some suitors out there. That list includes the Charlotte Hornets, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
“Sources tell me the Hornets have emerged as a potential suitor for Westbrook. There have been a couple other teams that have been mentioned as a possibility for the one-time league MVP, but in Charlotte there are moveable, better contracts, as well as the Jordan brand connection for Westbrook. So far in talks, the Rockets have been protective of both James Harden and Westbrook, but there’s plenty of time between now and Wednesday’s NBA Draft.”
Westbrook reportedly wants to return to the role as floor general, similar to his days in Oklahoma City, but there aren’t many contending teams in need of a point guard. Our own Sam Quinn ranked the top five trade destinations for him, but only two of them made the playoffs a season ago, and one of those teams was the Orlando Magic.
If Westbrook were traded to Charlotte, though, he would automatically become the focal point of the offense in the starting point guard spot, and while the Hornets do have promising young players in Devonte Graham and PJ Washington, you would have to think that Houston would want at least one of those two players, in addition to perhaps Terry Rozier who has playoff experience from his time with the Boston Celtics. Charlotte also has the expiring contracts of Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller to work with, both of whom could be of interest to the Rockets, and the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.
Charlotte is also one of the only teams this offseason that has max cap space, so taking on Westbrook’s contract wouldn’t be an issue, it’s just a matter of how much they are willing to give up for his services.