The NBA world was shocked again on Thursday as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly completed a blockbuster trade involving Russell Westbrook.
According to ESPN, the Rockets sent Chris Paul and draft picks to the Thunder in exchange for 2017 NBA MVP Westbrook.
This is a huge deal for the Western Conference as Houston boasts a similar team to what they had last season but became younger and more athletic in the process.
Rockets fans can dream about the potential of this tandem, however it is not an idea that is foreign. In fact, we have seen this combination before as Harden and Westbrook were drafted by the Thunder and played together from 2009-12 and made an NBA Finals alongside Kevin Durant in their last season together.
So, what did those teams look like in Oklahoma City? They looked great, we will tell you that.
With Westbrook, the Thunder had a high-energy point guard who was unstoppable going to the rim and a terror on defense. With Durant, Oklahoma City had the player who could get any shot he wanted and presented a mismatch every time he was on the court. Harden was the sixth man for that team as he provided a solid scoring option and a better defender than people may remember (he was given the job of guarding LeBron James in the 2012 NBA Finals for long stretches).
Summer Squad Heating Up pic.twitter.com/206G3FoDYX— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) July 12, 2019
On March 23, 2012 – the three combined to score 110 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harden and Westbrook totalled 70.
As good as they were as a team, though, a lot of people did not take them seriously. That was until they dominated the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. After losing the first two games, they came back to win the last four by an average of nearly 10 points (9.75).
In that series, the big three dominated as Westbrook averaged 18.1 points, 7.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds, Harden put up 18.5, 5.5 and 3.6 while Durant added 29.5, 5.3 and 7.5. This was the team to beat for years to come.
They wound up losing to the Miami Heat in the Finals in five games, but they won the opener, and had it not been for a missed foul call in the waning moments of Game 2, the Thunder might have taken a 2-0 series lead and then, who knows?
This team was the Golden State Warriors before the Warriors and Harden and Westbrook were huge parts of that. It looked like it was going to be a dynasty for years to come in the west, but that was until Harden was due for an extension and more money.
Ultimately, the Thunder did not pay Harden and he was dealt to Houston along with Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks (which became Steven Adams in 2013 and Mitch McGary in 2014), and a second-round pick (which became Alex Abrines in 2013).
Harden then went on to win an MVP with Houston in 2018, Westbrook won it with the Thunder in 2017 and Durant earned the honour in 2014. Now, two of those players are back together. Durant is the only one to have a title (he won two with the Warriors), but Westbrook and Harden can see if they can get one they so highly covet.
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