Russell Westbrook is reportedly wanting out of Houston after one season. Photo from @BleacherReport (Twitter).
- Russell Westbrook reportedly wants out of Houston after one season
- Rumors drop Rockets’ NBA title odds to +2800 and out of the top 10
- Read on below to see if there is any value in taking the Rockets at these lengthy odds
That cracking sound you’re hearing are the foundations of the Houston Rockets’ status as contender crumbling.
After getting dismantled by the soon-to-be NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers in the second round, there’s been nothing but flux. And the latest news of all-star guard Russell Westbrook reportedly wanting out of H-Town has sent the Rockets’ NBA Championship odds tumbling.
2021 NBA Championship Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||+350|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+550|
|Golden State Warriors||+800|
Odds taken from DraftKings taken November 10
They may not have been title favorites, but they’re now outside the top-10 in championship odds, in the range of the 76ers (+3000) and Jazz (+4000). But will the star subtraction lead to James Harden again establishing his dominance as the go-to guy and boost Houston again?
Shakeups Since Elimination
The Rockets were supposed to be the team no one wanted to face in the playoffs. Their micro-ball style and defensive switchability was a matchup nightmare. They were rated the top defensive team in the playoff bubble en route to dispatching the OKC Thunder in seven games in Round 1.
LeBron blocks Westbrook again – with emphasis pic.twitter.com/naEjJsn6QD
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) September 5, 2020
But the Lakers basically used their own formula against them in Round 2. They downsized their lineup and did it better than Houston. The result was a team that looked like smoke and mirrors getting ushered out in five games.
Since then, head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to not return. GM Daryl Morey left the team soon afterwards, resurfacing only days later as the president of basketball operations with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Daryl Morey left a mess and now it must be cleaned. Starts with trading either Westbrook or Harden. #waittosee https://t.co/WFuR1gvtlI
— David P. Samson (@DavidPSamson) November 12, 2020
Coaches and GM’s come and go all the time, but perhaps no two shaped a team to their personnel and philosophy more than D’Antoni and Morey did in Houston. Analytics reigned supreme, with the Rockets abandoning the mid-range jumper and creating a system based on threes, layups and free throws.
D’Antoni’s offense adjusted to make Harden an isolation beast. It was even further tweaked to allow a non-shooter like Westbrook more room to operate by eliminating a big man.
Even with reported buy-in from Westbrook and Harden on new coach Stephen Silas and the promotion of Rafael Sloane to GM, perhaps it was only a matter of time before the franchise needed a reboot.
“James Harden has not been answering the phone for ownership or the front office for about 2 weeks now. Russell Westbrook is not happy.”
Kendrick Perkins says there’s trouble brewing with the Houston Rockets.pic.twitter.com/m0oAzGqXRl
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 11, 2020
Can Houston Still Contend?
There’s a price to constantly going all-in, as Morey did. He gave up a haul of first-round picks and swaps to the Thunder to get Westbrook, and dealt this year’s first-rounder to pick up Robert Covington. When it didn’t work, the only way to find some flexibility was likely to move the only legit assets they had: Westbrook or Harden.
.@maxkellerman LOVES the idea of Russell Westbrook on the Clippers.
“Westbrook and Kawhi might be a better version, in terms of the way the personalities [match up] … than Westbrook and KD.” pic.twitter.com/AY00eSv8lD
— First Take (@FirstTake) November 11, 2020
There are teams that are interested in Westbrook, who looked unstoppable at times in Houston. He averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 59 games while shooting 47.2% from the field in 57 games. He will be 32 next season, and is owed $131.5 million over the next three years, including a player option at a whopping $46.7 million in 2022-23.
James Harden is committed to the Rockets and is “locked in” for the season, per @ShamsCharania pic.twitter.com/jgWKVADehG
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 12, 2020
If Houston can move him, that would leave Harden without a star-studded running mate. But the three-time and reigning scoring champion — who’s been an all-star every year since arriving in Houston — could still make a go of it, depending on how the Rockets re-tool on the fly.
What’s the Best Bet?
It’s worth noting that owner Tilman Fertitta has committed to going over the luxury tax to keep Houston’s title window alive.
But this is situation critical: Harden has himself questioned the franchise’s direction, and has been aloof with the team. This is with the NBA Draft coming in a week and free agency on Nov. 20. There are also rumours floating around that Harden could be moved as well, leaving the Rockets in total rubble.
James Harden reportedly has Miami, Brooklyn and Philadelphia on his wishlist if he were to request a trade from Houston, per @ClutchNBA5R pic.twitter.com/TdwgCJMqBi
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) November 11, 2020
With roster and management uncertainty, the Rockets are already way behind loaded teams out West in the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving kick things off in Brooklyn with the Heat, Raptors and Celtics still going strong. There are elite teams this NBA season, so I’d steer clear of the current situation in Houston, which could turn to total carnage before the season tips off.
Having worked in and around sports since 1997, Eric is truly a knowledgable expert. The two-time journalism grad specializes in all things NBA and NFL. From TSN.ca to CTV’s Olympic Broadcast Consortium, Eric’s work has appeared in local and national publications alike.