Days after Paul George’s shocking separation from the Thunder, Russell Westbrook followed suit in a shocking blockbuster deal that sent the former MVP to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and multiple first-round picks. The deal changes everything for the Rockets, who will stack former OKC stars in pursuit of a title widely perceived to be there for the taking. Meanwhile, it puts Oklahoma City in a full-on rebuild, if the Thunder weren’t there already.
How much this trade moves the needle for Houston is open to interpretation. Westbrook has been awful at the core principle of Houston’s analytics-heavy style of play: shooting efficiency. His fit in an offense that lives and dies by James Harden’s every movement will require adjustment. But it’s yet to be seen who will be doing the adjusting and how willing either might be, even if the two have played together before.
The Rockets’ big move wasn’t a harmless experiment, either. The Rockets sent the Thunder two first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 (protected No. 1-4) and two pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Here are the winners and losers of yet another summer 2019 brain-buster.
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are stacking picks on picks in a summer of complete renovation. They accepted defeat once PG went out the door by shopping Russ, and that’s admirable. Clearly, a championship wasn’t in range with this core, and it was time to move on.
In the end, they got a tremendous haul. Since George’s trade request, OKC has added Paul, Danilo Gallinari, young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, seven first-round picks, and four pick swaps. That’s as strong a restart as they could’ve hoped.
Paul isn’t the right fit for a rebuild, but it seems he’s on his way out. Per The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Paul’s agent is set to talk with OKC GM Sam Presti, and the Thunder are interested in shipping Paul to the Heat if that’s his request.
Winner: Nobody else
Loser: Houston Rockets
The Rockets were a once-beautiful machine in the eyes of those who worshipped the efficiencies of a wing-stacked roster built on the magnificence of an extra-terrestrial offensive being.
But that’s no more. Westbrook is the Rockets’ Harden-era antithesis — high-usage, wildly inefficient and a rash defender. The fit with Harden is impractical given where the roster currently stands, and the history of how Westbrook’s fared in his chances to concede space to a more talented counterpart is checkered.
On top of it, Houston lost significant assets. It dealt two first-round picks and pick swaps for a player who arguably isn’t as good as Paul was even last year and has an extra year on another of the league’s biggest headache contracts. There’s no denying Westbrook has value, but for Houston to get what it invested, it’d need a massive reform from one of the leagues most stubborn stars.
Loser: James Harden
He may not realize it now, but Russ could become a more public nightmare than Paul ever was. Paul and Harden worked on the floor, even if they didn’t off it. The reverse could be uglier. Westbrook and Harden get along, but Russ will take the ball out of Harden’s hands more, and it’s yet to be seen if it’s for the better.
Loser: Chris Paul
From one carousel to the next, it seems unlikely that he’d want to play out his final years for a rebuilding OKC franchise. The Thunder are in no way a title-worthy team anymore.
Paul’s contract remains no easier to move though, and OKC is less likely to part with draft picks to make it happen. Paul is still linked to the Heat, but what it’d take to move him there is unclear. CP3 is still in limbo — but with much higher consequences if there’s no solution.
Loser: Fans who bought jerseys — again
This summer’s biggest losers are those who paid for superstar merch. Save it for Coachella, kids.