The Houston Rockets made a big trade over the summer that brought them Russell Westbrook and sent Chris Paul to Oklahoma City. Many questioned whether the Westbrook acquisition would significantly improve the Rockets, and whether adding him and the contract he was on would actually hurt the team long term. The answer so far seems to be that Westbrook has helped Houston remain one of the better teams in the West (and NBA).
So why did the Rockets feel motivated to make that move? Rockets general manager Daryl Morey shared the reasoning during a visit with ESPN’s Zach Lowe on “The Lowe Post” podcast. Essentially, Morey felt the addition of Westbrook would increase Houston’s ceiling.
“We just felt like you can’t win unless you’ve got a peak level that’s very high,” Morey told Lowe. “And we thought with Chris (Paul) and James (Harden) we were an extremely good team, and in fact in 2018, you could argue the best team. I think Golden State, to be fair, was probably the best (in 2018), but we were right there with them.
“And we felt like the team we had with Chris and James was extremely good but was going to come up short of the title. And we thought that adding Russ, who unquestionably has this peak level of play that not many guys have reached, was the right move.”
Morey clearly isn’t worried about the risk of possibly having a bad fit that doesn’t work if it means increasing the chances of his team winning a championship. And the move has paid off, as Houston now focuses on spacing, and Westbrook isn’t taking as many three-pointers as he used to because he has many more options for passing. The team even traded away Clint Capela to go all-in on making this squad as competitive as possible based on their strengths.
Will the Rockets win the championship? Maybe not, but Morey is at least going to go down giving what he feels is the team’s best shot. And what’s funny is now he’s banking on a guy he used to dislike.