The Houston Rockets announced that point guard Russell Westbrook will miss the first few games, if not more, in the playoffs due to a strained right quad that he suffered a few days ago.
His absence will impact the team grately not only because of being the superstar on the team, but also because of everything he brought to the team outside of statistics.
Trade Reunites Westbrook with James Harden
Westbrook was acquired in a star trade that sent point guard Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Westbrook to the Rockets to reunite with guard James Harden before the start of the 2019-20 season. The two once played together on the Thunder.
Westbrook has been a triple-double machine basically for the past six seasons with a streak of three straight seasons averaging them for the entire season (2016-19).
After a slow start to the year with his new team, Westbrook managed to turn it around when it counted the most.
Playing alongside Harden, Westbrook came close to averaging a triple-double for his fourth straight season but fell short of that mark after averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.
Small-Ball, Big Reward
Still putting up superstar numbers, the Rockets decided to go with a small-ball starting lineup (a smaller lineup) after trading center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in February.
The small-ball lineup has worked, solidifying the Rockets to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. They sit behind the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets, who are Nos. one-three respectively.
Likely No Battle of Tradees
Looking ahead to the playoffs, it will be Westbrook vs Paul in the first round as the Rockets drew the No. 5 Thunder. Fans were supposed to see who would win in the battle of guards since one was traded for the other, but with Westbrook out for the first few games of the series the series may not be as close as expected and the two may not go head-to-head.
Rockets Take Off Early?
Now that Westbrook is back with Harden, the offense could be more balanced out because of the scoring and play-making ability both guards possess. With the playoffs coming, both players looked to make a run at the NBA finals, but now that Westbrook is out, it could cause the Rockets’ run to potentially end in the first round.
Westbrook adds another 30 points to a Rockets team that thrived off of Harden’s dominance since 2013. Furthermore, he averages nearly 10 board and 10 assists to his scoring, creating a true one-two punch for the team that it will be missing to begin the postseason.
Opponents Defensive Tasks Easier Now?
Having a player that could turn around and dominate besides Harden makes opponents change their defenses more to accommodate the star power the duo brings day in day out. But now, said opposing teams should have an easier task with Westbrook’s absence.
The Thunder will likely still go into the series as the underdogs because of the need to defend Harden. With Harden being the focal point, being able to put up 40-50 points on any given night, Oklahoma City isn’t out of the water. If the Thunder defend him properly, they can go up 3-0 potentially because of the small-ball lineup that has proven to work in the regular season, but will most likely struggle without one of their key rebounders.
Can the Thunder pull off an upset in the first round of the playoffs? Now that Westbrook will be out for a little bit, this would be an ideal situation to do that. The first game between the Rockets and Thunder will tip off at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow.