By TIM REYNOLDS
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Russell Westbrook and James Harden are together again, and Chris Paul is leaving Houston to make that reunion happen.
A person with knowledge of the situation says the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Paul in a swapping of top point guards. The Thunder also are getting first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, plus the right to swap first-rounders in two other seasons, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the trade has not been announced.
ESPN first reported the agreement.
Paul is a nine-time All-Star, Westbrook an eight-time selection. Paul has 9,181 career assists, the most among active players. Westbrook has 138 triple-doubles, tied with Magic Johnson for second-most in NBA history behind only Oscar Robertson’s 181. Both members of Houston’s new glitzy backcourt are recent MVPs: Westbrook won it in 2017, Harden won it in 2018. And the trade means that the NBA’s two highest scorers over the last five seasons — Harden with 11,958 points, Westbrook with 10,025 — are now teammates.
Westbrook and Harden were Thunder teammates for three seasons, the last of those being the 2011-12 campaign when that duo and Kevin Durant took Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals. They lost in five games to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, and Harden departed that summer for Houston — where he’s been an All-Star ever since.
But when the Thunder agreed last week to trade Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers — in a move that essentially sealed 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard’s decision to leave Toronto for the Clippers — it became clear quickly that Westbrook would be on the move as well. And this trade, when completed, will mean that Thunder general manager Sam Presti has added eight first-round picks to the team’s stockpile in the last week or so.
Oklahoma City got five first-round future selections as part of the George trade. The Thunder are getting two more in this trade, and got a 2020 first-round pick in the deal completed earlier this week that sent Jerami Grant to Denver.
It’s the latest bold transaction in a wild offseason of movement that already saw Leonard become the first reigning Finals MVP change teams in the offseason after winning that award, Anthony Davis get traded from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Lakers, All-Star point guards like Kyrie Irving (Boston to Brooklyn), Kemba Walker (Charlotte to Boston) and D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn to Golden State) change teams, Durant leave the Warriors for Brooklyn, Jimmy Butler go from Philadelphia to Miami in a sign-and-trade, Al Horford move from Philadelphia from Boston.
“Craziest NBA summer by far,” longtime NBA guard Jamal Crawford tweeted.
Paul and Harden were teammates for two seasons in Houston. The Rockets had a 3-2 lead over Golden State in the 2018 Western Conference finals when Paul injured a hamstring, and the Warriors rallied to win that series in seven games on the way to the NBA title. This past season, Houston was ousted in the second round by the Warriors.
The 34-year-old Paul is owed roughly $125 million over the final three years of his contract, including a $44.2 million option for 2021-22. Westbrook, who turns 31 early next season, is owed $171 million over the final four years of his existing deal.
Paul has called Oklahoma City home before.
He played his first two NBA seasons with the New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets while the team was displaced from Louisiana by the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Every game we played, I’ve never seen fan support like that,” Paul told The Oklahoman for a story in February 2014 about his time in Oklahoma City.
The trade will become final after NBA approval, which is standard procedure.