Okay, before I begin this piece, I'd like to ask a simple survey question.
Who's more excited about Westbrook joining the Houston Rockets?
James Harden or Travis Scott
Please feel free to vote on our Instagram page, @BurbsEnt and shoot us a follow while you're at if you would be so kind and generous. Thanks. Okay, now let the article begin.
I've come out of retirement to discuss the most mind boggling trade of the last 144 hours since the whole Kawhi-Paul George to the Clippers ordeal: the instantly infamous Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook trade.
Chris Paul, and several future first round picks have been dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Mr. Triple Double himself, Russell "Brodie / WHY NOT" Westbrook.
When this transaction initially took place I was playing a relaxing, yet somewhat intense game of Beersbie (or Polish Horseshoes, whatever you wanna call it) with some friends on their front lawn. I'd foolishly thought that the most exciting thing that was going to happen to my friends and I that day was the switching of my Frisbee toss from the traditional backhand toss to the unorthodox hammer-throw.
Once again, for the umpteenth time in my life, I was both hysterically wrong and absolutely baffled by a deal that went down in the best league in sports history: the NBA.
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey is popular for his obsession with superstars in this league that has only about eight or nine of them. Several years ago he gave up one of the most ludicrous hauls ever in order to obtain Chris "The Point God" Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers in order to pair him with MVP candidate James Harden.
The other day, Morey proved once again that he'll stop at nothing in order to electrocute the league, and force me to check my own pulsating heart.
Not only did Daryl dish Chris Paul to the curb like a side of fries that he didn't feel like eating anymore, he ordered a whole 'nother entree to pair with his primary one in James Harden.
Adding Russell Westbrook to a James Harden led team is like adding a full slab of ribs to a plate that already has a 24 oz. prime rib (if they even make those).
There are only two players in the entire history of the NBA that have had a usage rate percentage of over 40% throughout the course of an entire season. Can you guess who they are? I bet you can, if you watched even a sliver of professional basketball over the last two years.
That's right, it's the former teammates turned present teammates: James Harden in 2018-19 (40.47%) and Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 (41.65%). Kobe Bryant, an infamous ball hog, is only third in that ranking with his whopping 38.74% usage percentage during the 2005-06 season.
If you aren't a complete basketball nerd, and those numbers I just listed above don't mean a single shrapnel of shit to you, then please allow me to phrase it more simply:
James Harden and Russell Westbrook both love to have the basketball in their hands, and they both hate to not have the basketball in their hands.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Well, Chris Paul loved to have the basketball in his hands too! And he and Harden made it work well enough to come one game short of making the NBA Finals pretty recently," and that's a fair argument. But, Chris Paul didn't need the basketball in his hands in order to succeed because he was a tremendously efficient spot-up catch and shoot player.
Once again, if you watched a single sliver of professional basketball last season, then you'd be aware that Westbrook's biggest inefficiency in his game is his ability to be a spot-up jump shooter.
Russ had the worst shooting year of his entire career last year, which isn't something that any franchise wants to see out of their veteran point guard who's earning a supermax salary. Players have traditionally in the past only gotten better at jump shooting throughout their career, and Russ has faltered off into the wrong direction.
Despite Russ's shooting woes, I don't want you get me wrong; I am beyond excited for the two former Thunder Buddies to team up in Houston and suit up for the Rockets. I love the Rockets. The Martian and I have been on their bandwagon since James Harden solidified himself as one of the three best scorers in NBA history. And more importantly, Russ has room to improve!
He's only two or three years removed from the best shooting season of his incredible career. I'd love to see him succeed in Houston, and take the Rockets over the top, especially because he and James are two of the most amazing stat-sheet-stuffers of all-time. There's nothing I adore more than when an NBA player makes history in the present day league because I'm hyper-aware that it's more competitive, talented, and deep than the league has ever been (GO FUCK YOURSELF, IGNORANT AND ARROGANT OLD-HEADS).
I was happy for Westbrook during his 2016-17 MVP campaign when he was the first player to average a triple double for an entire season since Oscar Robertson. I was elated when James Harden averaged over 36 points per game this past season (people easily forget that he also led the playoffs in points per game as well at 31.6). And now I'm excited at the prospect of two of the league's most polarizing players to conjoin forces once again, this time at the peak (?) of their powers.
We've seen what these two are capable of with one another, they made the Finals with the Thunder back in 2011 alongside former teammates Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. But let's not forget that they were young, and relatively inexperienced playoff competitors in comparison to the Miami Heat roster all those years ago.
Eight years later, Houston's dynamic backcourt duo is definitively made up by two of the most championship-hungry players in the world.
The last time they were together in OKC, Westbrook was the dominant ball handler while Harden was asked to play off-ball. Throughout the year though, I will be a devout believer that this is still James Harden's team and organization, no matter how bad Westbrook wants it to be his team, and that Westbrook should be the one riding shotgun with control over nothing aside from the A/C and the Aux (play some fucking Metallica, Russ, why not?).
Westbrook is one of the most athletic humans to ever walk on Planet Earth, and it's about time that he had a coach who can expose that athleticism and utilize it for good. Coach Mike D'Antoni has a brilliant offensive mind (because he doesn't have a defensive one). If he can convince Westbrook to consistently be a basket cutter in half-court sets, then we could see both Westbrook's points per game total rise, as well as Harden's assist numbers.
I don't know who the favorites are to come out of the Western Conference (more coming about this on a later date), but although I'm not a gambling man, I'd certainly put a decent amount of money on the Rockets to finally make it over the hump and reach the NBA Finals even despite all of my past Westbrook hatred. I firmly believe that D'Antoni, and Harden can change Russ for the better.