The Oklahoma City Thunder finally found a willing trade partner although the NBA player they got in return may have stirred up further question on the direction of the franchise. This is with reference to the acquisition of Chris Paul who brings his act to OKC along with an expensive contract worth about $123 million. That would be the full amount that the Thunder are facing, assuming that the 34-year-old exercises the player option into the final year of the deal on 2021-22.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that OKC dealt Russell to the Rockets for Paul and two first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps. Curiously, he added that the Thunder would continue to work and find a new team for CP3. Hence, this hints that the nine-time NBA All-Star could still be on the move with the Miami Heat a possible landing spot.
The latest development somehow affirms a likely strained relationship between Paul and James Harden. The conflict cropped up during the last NBA playoffs when the Rockets fell to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. From there, rumors of an impending Paul exit flew. During a visit to the Philippines however, it sounded as if Harden was expecting to play once more next season with Paul, as discussed in a previous post.
Hence now, the big question is if Paul will be kept by the Thunder or dealt out. Aside from his hefty contract, there are concerns about his health. He missed 24 games during the 2018-19 NBA season and there is no doubt that at his age, further injuries cannot be discounted. His performance is expected to decline as well — meaning that if he is not dealt now to another team, he is likely to be dealt anyway. And the risk involved in all that is his contract and his efficiency on the basketball court.
As far as the Rockets, they find themselves reuniting two former Thunder stars in Russell and Harden. What will be interesting now is how the two can co-exist. When Harden left OKC back in 2012, the 2018 NBA MVP came into his own. It was the same case for Westbrook who showed his full potential when Kevin Durant left to join the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Critics are eager to see how this reunion will turn out and if both NBA superstars can find a way to co-exist starting this 2019-20 NBA season.