One year after the blockbuster trade that sent Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, the two teams will play each other in the NBA Playoffs.
What We Know:
- On Wednesday, the Thunder defeated the Miami Heat and the Rockets lost to the Indiana Pacers. The outcomes of those games locked OKC and Houston into the 4th and 5th seeds in the western conference, guaranteeing a first-round playoff matchup. The teams still have one more game each to officially decide who will be the 4th seed and who will be the 5th seed, but the lack of home-court advantage in these playoffs makes the seeding for this matchup less important.
- In addition to the CP3-Westbrook trade, these teams have a lot of history between them, and the series should be full of storylines.
- The main draw of the series is that both teams traded their superstar point guards for each other just last year. Chris Paul had a short, two-year stint in Houston where he helped the team reach Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals. However, the Rockets ultimately underachieved and Paul’s injury concerns and large contract led the team to trade him. Westbrook played 11 seasons in OKC and he was beloved by the fans. After Kevin Durant left the team in 2016, Westbrook committed to the team long-term and accepted the challenge of being the franchise player. Westbrook wowed the league with triple-doubles and heroic play and even won a league MVP in 2017, but the team was never able to advance past the first round of the playoffs with him being the best player.
- With Westbrook in Houston and Paul in OKC, both players have had a renaissance year. Westbrook looks like his MVP self, acting as the catalyst for Houston’s faster offense this year, and Paul has led this Thunder team to outplay expectations and they look to be a serious threat in these playoffs. This series could potentially be a revenge tour for both players as they compete against the franchises that traded them away. This could also be revenge for Rockets star James Harden. Harden started his career on the Thunder, but the team traded him to Houston in 2012 to avoid paying him a max contract.
- In addition to Paul and Westbrook playing their former teams, OKC and Houston have their own history and both teams are out to prove something this year. The Thunder came into this season with no expectations, many assuming they would miss the playoffs and try to trade Paul away as soon as possible. Now that the team has proven that they’re legit, they’re looking to make a deep playoff push: something they failed to do with Westbrook as their leader. In four of the last five postseasons, the Rockets have lost at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors aren’t in the playoffs this year, so the Rockets don’t have that specter looming over them anymore. For a team with James Harden and Russell Westbrook, this season is championship or bust and the Rockets are looking to finally make it over that hump.
The playoffs begin August 17. The Houston-OKC series could be complicated by Russell Westbrook’s recent quadriceps injury. Westbrook has missed three games so far and will sit out Houston’s last seeding game. The Rockets are planning for Westbrook to miss the first few games of their first-round series.