What Exactly is Westbrook’s Future in Houston?


Following a disappointing second-round exit from the 2020 playoffs, the Houston Rockets face some serious questions entering the offseason. The future of star point guard Russell Westbrook might be one of the most pressing issues for Houston to address.

Star Power

Just the name “Russell Westbrook” itself evokes strong feelings from pretty much everyone within the NBA circle. There’s simply no denying Westbrook’s greatness on the basketball court, and his career accolades certainly back up that sentiment. As a nine-time all star, 2017 MVP, and second all-time in career triple-doubles, Russ and his accomplishments truly stand out. In spite of all this, however, he remains one of the most divisive players in the NBA due to his efficiency issues and past playoff failures. One would think that any team would be glad to have him on their roster, but the truth may be the exact opposite.

The 40 Million Dollar (per year) Man

The Westbrook trade took the NBA world by storm last offseason, due in part to the contracts which were moved between him and Chris Paul. Russ himself will make $44 million during his age 32 season, and with a player option in 2022-23, he could set himself up for a massive payday of $47 million. Even though he’s usually a fantastic player, that’s a large sum of money to pay an aging point guard who relies primarily on his athleticism to be successful.


Due to his contract situation, questions begin to arise regarding his future in Houston.

Brodie and the Beard: Superstar Duo

Westbrook initially made his way to Houston at the request of Rockets superstar James Harden, who he’d formerly shared a backcourt with in Oklahoma City. The pair’s history goes back even further than that though, as they actually were best friends growing up together in California. Their chemistry is through the roof both on and off the court, and they became the highest scoring PPG duo in NBA history, passing up Kobe and Shaq with 61.5 points per game. When paired together, Brodie and The Beard make up one of the best backcourt combos in the association.

Fit With Houston

However, rough stretches proved inevitable and Russ’ play in particular suffered during the early parts of the season. He’s the only player on the team who can’t shoot the three ball, which drastically limits his fit on a roster which emphasizes that shot so much. He didn’t quite fit in, especially considering the emphasis Rockets management places on efficiency and advanced analytics.

On the other hand, the switch to small ball in February maximized his potential. During that month’s eight games, Russ truly went wild on the rest of the league, averaging 33 points with seven rebounds and six assists per game. On top of that, he shot 55% from the field during that span and undoubtedly looked like Houston’s best player. February Russ looked amazing, but only after he got fully healthy and was provided spacing to let him drive into the lane.

Playoff Woes

Although Russ played great during February, that version of him didn’t quite show up for the playoffs. During the league’s hiatus, Russell contracted a minor case of the coronavirus which kept him from training for a couple of weeks. He returned rusty in the Bubble, but appeared to start regaining his signature athleticism after a while.

Sadly, disaster struck Houston sports as it always seems to do. Westbrook strained his quad during an almost meaningless game. He rehabbed for two weeks and returned a couple of games into his team’s first-round playoff series, but the Westbrook of old looked to have disappeared. His notorious reputation for poor playoff performances took over, and he committed a load of turnovers including seven in one game. His competitive fire was still there, but he only showed brief glimpses of the efficient scoring and playmaking “February Russ” had provided.

Brodie’s Future

As we all know, the Rockets eventually lost their semifinal series to the Lakers. The Rockets’ fanbase was already notoriously divided between Russ and Harden fans, but the rift somehow grew even more large after the playoff disappointment. Half of Rockets Twitter cried out for a trade to send Russ away from Houston, but the other half remained adamant on keeping him around. Here’s the reality of the situation:

  • Realistically speaking, very few teams would show much interest in Westbrook. His recent injury issues are concerning since he relies so heavily on his athletic abilities. Add in his age as well as his massive contract, and it looks like only desperate teams such as the Knicks or Hornets would even consider bringing the star in to help them towards a playoff appearance.
  • The Rockets also possess very few assets to convince another team to take on Westbrook’s contract. They traded away two draft picks and two pick swaps just to bring him in, so they don’t have much left besides Russ himself to offer another team in a trade.
  • Houston constructed their whole roster to maximize Russ’ ability to push the tempo and drive the lane. If he somehow miraculously got traded away, the Rockets wouldn’t have much to work with in terms of complimentary pieces for Harden, who is at his best when paired with a true big man.
  • Finally, there’s no telling how Harden might react to his co-star leaving Houston. Considering that Harden’s the one who convinced ownership to trade for Russ in the first place, it’s easy to understand how trading his best friend away could potentially push him further away from the Rockets. That’s a chance the franchise certainly will try to avoid at all costs.

Back to Reality

All things considered, it’s highly probable that Russell Westbrook remains with the Rockets to try and run it back next season. While they may have come up short this past year, many believe Houston only needs one more solid piece to make a real run at a championship. Anything can happen in H-town though, so maybe Westbrook could find himself in a new city next year after all.

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