As soon as the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, it was only a matter of time before Russell Westbrookwould be moved, too. At that point, it only made sense for general manager Sam Presti to tear the Thunder down fully and rebuild from scratch.
The part nobody expected, though, was for this to be the trade.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young reported Thursday evening that the Thunder agreed to send Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, two future first-round picks (2024 and 2026) and two future pick swaps (2021 and 2025).
Westbrook now reunites with James Harden, his Oklahoma City teammate from 2009 through 2012. Paul's supposedly unmovable three-year, $124.1 million contract is in Oklahoma City now, where it may or may not stay. There's a lot to sort through on all sides, but here are the initial winners and losers.
Winner: Russell Westbrook
Westbrook signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the Thunder in September 2017, just over a year after Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors. It was a statement of his loyalty to the small market that drafted him, of his intention to stay there the rest of his career.
Things change, however. And when Oklahoma City was put in an impossible position with George last week, it made sense for both Westbrook and the Thunder to decide it was time to move on, as well.
Now, Westbrook upgrades from a Thunder team going nowhere to a Rockets team with every intention of staying in the title mix. He gets to play with Harden again, and Houston still has a solid supporting cast including Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker. How all those pieces will fit together is a valid question, but this is clearly a better situation for Westbrook than staying in Oklahoma City would have been.
Loser: Mike D'Antoni
The man who will be charged with making the Harden-Westbrook combination work is D'Antoni, who has plenty of other things to worry about as it stands.
He's on a lame-duck contract after negotiations on an extension with the Rockets broke down. Almost his entire coaching staff was pulled out from under him this spring, including well-regarded assistants Jeff Bzdelik (fired) and Roy Rogers (mutual agreement to part ways). His future in Houston is very much up in the air.
And now, there will be more pressure on him than ever to make an awkward pairing of superstars fit.
Paul, for all his injury-related question marks, can still shoot. Westbrook just had his worst shooting season since 2010, hitting just 29 percent of his three-pointers. With so much of D'Antoni's philosophy built on marksmanship, the fit is far from perfect. And with Harden and Westbrook both under contract for years to come, the head coach will be the fall guy if they underperform together.
Winner: Sam Presti
The Thunder general manager turned an unenviable situation—two superstars, including an 11-year pillar of his franchise, wanting out—into an incredible foundation for a rebuild.