This whole NBA offseason has been full of surprises, so it should not have been a shocker to see Russell Westbrook moved from the Oklahoma City Thunder, the only team he has known for 11 years. On Thursday, though, that is exactly what happened as the Thunder traded Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul, two first-round picks (2024 and 2026) and two pick swaps.
For the Thunder, after trading Paul George to the Clippers in a stunning move that paired him up with Kahwi Leonard, the writing on the wall was clear that it was time to start a rebuild. Between George, Westbrook and Jerami Grant, the Thunder have completely town down their team but have also set themselves up well for the next several years with the multitude of first-round picks that they acquired in the deals, in addition to players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. While Chris Paul remains with the Thunder for the time being, it is not hard to imagine him being moved as well. While the return will likely not be significant, teams like the Miami Heat seem to be interested in the veteran point guard.
For the Rockets, they now have two elite scorers in their presence. Last season, James Harden averaged 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists in 78 games while shooting 44.2% from the field and 36.8% from three-point range. Westbrook averaged a triple-double with 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 10.7 assists in 73 games. Those two in the backcourt together will make for the NBA’s most dynamic and potent offensive threat.
There is some concern as to their ability to play together knowing that they both thrive with the ball in their hands, but having already played together in Oklahoma City many years ago, they feel it can work. Throw into the mix Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and PJ Tucker, and this is a team that certainly has aspirations of an NBA championship.
Simmons Agrees To Extension With 76ers
With so much movement going on around the league, one player will be staying with his team for the foreseeable future. Ben Simmons has agreed with the Philadelphia 76ers on a five-year extension that will give him a maximum salary contract (roughly $170 million over the life of the extension). Last season, in 79 games with the 76ers, Simmons averaged 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists while shooting 56.3% from the field. At 6-10, he is not your typical point guard, but he can certainly create a lot on the offensive end with the ball in his hand. He still will be looking to expand his jump shot, though, as the three-ball is virtually non-existent in his game. For Philadelphia, they have had a busy offseason with this extension, the re-signing of Tobias Harris and scooping up both Al Horford and Josh Richardson. They certainly look like they could be a dangerous team in the East next season.
Cavaliers Waive Smith
To save a little bit of money, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that they had waived guard J.R. Smith. Monday was the deadline as if he was still on the roster on Tuesday, his partially guaranteed contract would increase by just a little under a million dollars. It is not necessarily shocking as Smith has been away from the team since last November after the team agreed to a separation. Prior to leaving the team, Smith had averaged 6.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 11 games. The Cavaliers had tried to trade him, but with no one willing to make a trade, they opted to release the veteran. Still, it is expected that Smith will latch on with a team somewhere, although some reports have indicated that the Lakers will be one team will not pursue him.
Redick’s Deal With Pelicans Becomes Official
While an agreement was made at the end of June, shooting guard JJ Redick’s contract with the New Orleans Pelicans became official on Monday. Redick agreed to a two-year contract worth a little over $26 million. Last season with the 76ers, Redick averaged 18.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 76 games. He shot 44% from the field and an impressive 39.7% from behind the three. While they are not likely to be a contending team this season, New Orleans will be one of the more fascinating teams to watch this season after drafting Zion Williamson with the first overall pick in addition to picking up Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, Brandon Ingram and now Redick.
A Couple Smaller Signings
While the beginning of free agency has been inundated with movement of some of the biggest names in the sport, there were a couple more subtle moves over the last week. For instance, the Brooklyn Nets agreed to terms with David Nwaba to bring the shooting guard in on a two-year, minimum-salary deal. Nwaba, who played last year with the Cavaliers, averaged 6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 51 games. While he isn’t a difference-maker on a team, he certainly is a nice depth and complementary piece.
Another two-year, minimum-salary deal went to forward Tyler Lydon, who signed with the Sacramento Kings. Lydon is more of a depth piece than anything as last year he averaged less than a point, rebound and assist per game in just 25 contests with Denver.