NBA

Russell Westbrook Shouldn't Alter How We Bet the Rockets

The Rockets' odds have seen a massive shift after trading for Westbrook, but that's a mistake.

This NBA offseason has been unpredictable to say the least.

For as unraveled as the Golden State Warriors have become, the Oklahoma City Thunder gave them a run for their money.

Now, they're set up with basically an unprecedented boatload of first-round picks in the future, but it came at the expense of Paul George and Russell Westbrook via trades to the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, respectively.

Swapping Chris Paul, two first-round picks, and two pick swaps for Westbrook has caused the Rockets' NBA Championship odds from +1500 to +800 on FanDuel Sportsbook. Is that right?

Tracking Transactions

The 2019-20 NBA season won't look much at all like the 2018-19 season, and that should lead to a lot of fun -- and possible betting value for us.


The move will have long-term ramifications for sure, but as for the 2019-20 season, the impact should be pretty significant as well.

Per our nERD metric, Paul has been the more efficient player over the past three seasons, averaging a 10.3 nERD score compared to 8.8 for Westbrook. nERD indicates expected wins added to an otherwise league-average team. So it's certainly close, but our numbers are going to view this as a bump down for the Rockets.

Westbrook's nERD has been dropping precipitously the past three years, as well: 15.1, 7.9, 3.3. Getting the ball out of his hands could help him be more efficient again, though his best seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17) came on substantial volume.

Despite the dip in nERD from Paul to Westbrook, the Rockets boast the highest average three-year nERD score of any NBA roster: 2.87. No other team is higher than 1.85 (the Los Angeles Lakers). Even weighting nERD over that span to give 2018-19 more weight than the two prior seasons gets the Rockets one of the best overall team nERD scores in the league -- if not the best, depending on the weighting.

As far as just 2019 results go, the Clippers have the best average nERD at 3.75, followed by the Milwaukee Bucks (3.09), the Utah Jazz (2.62), and the Rockets (2.57). No matter how you slice it, the Rockets deserve to be considered one of the NBA's best teams from top to bottom.

Does the trade really warrant a jump from +1500 to +800? Well, probably not. Via Jacob Goldstein's Lineup Predictor, Houston's starting five has a projected net rating of 7.2. With Paul instead of Westbrook, it's 13.3.

Takeaways

This deal doesn't necessarily make the Rockets significantly worse by any means, though the future will be pretty rough without the first-rounders. A swap for a championship could be worth it, of course.

However, the deal probably shouldn't move the needle so much that their odds are now +800 when they were at +1400 a few hours ago.

The Clippers are still shaping up as the team to beat, so chasing the Rockets may not be the play after the massive trade.