Coach Mike D'Antoni has already revealed that he will not be returning next season while the futures of several players are also at risk.
While hundreds of NBA Trade Rumors have suggested James Harden to leave the Houston Rockets, he remains one of the few players still out of the trade block. However, the same cannot be said about his backcourt partner - Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook was acquired over the summer in the hopes that he would add a different dimension to the team - something the veteran Chris Paul failed too. It wasn't meant to be as the Houston Rockets showed no significant signs of improvement with Russell Westbrook in the team, and his performance in the playoff was particularly dismal. On top of that, he has a long contract that earns him north of $40 million per season.
The Houston Rockets simply have to look for a trade that rids them of that contract. They can potentially get another star in return, who can fit well with the rest of the squad.
NBA Trade Rumors: Kevin Love is the perfect center for the Houston Rockets' ideology
Russell Westbrook started his stint with the Houston Rockets mildly before exploding in the middle of the season. At that point, there was genuine enthusiasm among the Rockets fans regarding the post-season. Westbrook was steamrolling past defenders and aggressively attacking the basket. He seemed to have added a dynamism to the Houston Rockets' offense that was absent before. Unfortunately, his run of superb form did not carry through to the playoffs.
Russell Westbrook missed the first four games of the NBA Playoffs first round against his former employers - the Oklahoma City Thunder. When he did return for the final three games, he was quite poor as he scored the ball inefficiently while also making some unforced errors resulting in turnovers.
He wasn't much improved against the LA Lakers either as he shot less than 43% from the field, averaging only 19.8 points. He was averaging over 27 points per game with 47% efficiency during the regular season.
Westbrook has 3 years remaining in his contract, which will see him earn over $132 million through that period. In fact, as things stand, he will be the second-highest earner in the NBA next season behind Stephen Curry. The level of production he has given is simply nowhere near that kind of salary, and he must be shipped if the opportunity arrives.
It is likely that the Houston Rockets will have to take on unwanted contracts themselves to replace Russell Westbrook but the least they can do in that case is pick someone who actually fits the roster well. Kevin Love is one such person.
Kevin Love career statistics
Career points per game - 18.2
Career assists per game - 2.4
Career rebounds per game - 11.1
Career field goal % - 44.2%
Career 3pt % - 37.0%
Kevin Love had another very decent season with the currently ambitionless Cleveland Cavaliers, where he averaged nearly 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. Love shot 37.4% from three-point range but should up that number significantly in a Houston Rockets side that are built to provide their players good looks from outside the arc.
The former Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star also has 3 years left on his current deal but he will only be earning a little over $90 million in that time.
Kevin Love is an elite rebounder for a man of his size and can play both as a center and as a power forward. He would be perfect for the Houston Rockets if they want to continue playing small-ball as he is better at rebounding that anyone else in his height group. He is also an excellent three-point shooter and will be a tremendous upgrade over PJ Tucker.
NBA Trade Rumors: How do the salaries work out in Houston Rockets' quest for Kevin Love?
Russell Westbrook is definitely the better player between the two, which is why the Cleveland Cavaliers could be interested in this trade. Westbrook, for all his post-season shortcomings, had an incredible regular season, which is all that the Cavaliers would require. Westbrook's presence also makes it easier to entice free agents to sign for them.
To balance the salaries, the Cavaliers could send Dante Exum the other way. The once-promising guard has a year left on his deal worth $9 million.
Published 14 Sep 2020, 23:00 IST