Another NBA season, another year where the Houston Rockets don’t make the NBA Finals. James Harden has led the Rockets to a tremendous amount of success since coming to Houston, but they cannot quite get over the hump by reaching the NBA Finals. This is even after adding Russell Westbrook this season.
Following the Rockets’ loss to the LA Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals in five games, some may now speculate about Harden, Westbrook, and the Rockets’ future. Well, Harden might have just hinted at what he wants.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets failed to reach the NBA Finals again
He has been an All-Star every season he has been in Houston, has won a league MVP, and he has led the NBA in points per game in three consecutive seasons. In fact, Harden has been such a great scorer that he has averaged over 30 points per game each of the last three seasons and even scored as many as 36.1 points per game in 2018-19.
Prior to adding Harden, the Rockets had gone three consecutive seasons without making the playoffs, but they have since made the playoffs every season that he has been there. However, Houston has only made the Western Conference Finals twice in those eight trips to the playoffs. Additionally, they have not made the NBA Finals once, and have lost in the First Round three times.
This season, everyone thought that the Rockets potentially had all the pieces to win a championship after adding Russell Westbrook. However, even though they went 44-28 in the regular season and earned the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference standings, the Lakers dominated them in the Western Conference Semifinals, winning in five games.
Could the Rockets move on from Russell Westbrook?
Things didn’t go as planned for Harden and Westbrook this season. Westbrook did average 27.2 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, and seven assists this year. However, in the series against the Lakers, Westbrook only averaged 19.8 points per game, 7.4 rebounds, and five assists. He also only shot 42.4% from the field, compared to his 47.2% season average.
So, could the Rockets move on from Westbrook?
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweeted this while the Rockets were losing in Game 5 to the Lakers.
“Russell Westbrook is making $43.8 million per the next three seasons, and the Lakers defense barely defends him in the half-court,” O’Connor tweeted. “He’s past his athletic prime, one of the worst shooters in the NBA, and an undeniably poor fit with James Harden. Where do the Rockets go from here?”
He also added this: “After one year with Russell Westbrook, James Harden has to realize Russ isn’t the best fit for him and the Rockets. They wanted to play together, but you can’t win with a guard who’s an all-time bad shooter. Harden should push Morey to trade Westbrook or he’ll never win in Houston.”
According to Spotrac, Westbrook’s contract lasts through the 2022-23 season, so a trade could be surprising, but not many people expected the Oklahoma City Thunder to trade him and Paul George last offseason. So, who’s to say it won’t happen?
James Harden hinted at whether he wants to continue playing with Westbrook
So, does Harden want the Rockets to trade Westbrook, or does he want to keep playing with him? He might have hinted at what he wants following the Rockets’ loss to the Lakers.
“I feel like we’re a piece away,” Harden said. “We just got to keep trying to figure it out, keep trying to grow and put the right pieces around me and Russ to get to where we want to go.”
That sounds like someone who wants to continue playing with his teammate.
The two certainly know each other well after playing together on the Thunder prior to Harden coming to the Rockets. However, they are both ball-dominant players, which can sometimes negatively affect the flow of the offense.
It will certainly be an interesting offseason, but it appears that Harden potentially wants the Rockets to keep Westbrook in Houston.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference