The 2019 offseason featured the controversial departure of Chris Paul from the Houston Rockets. Despite receiving an assurance that he would remain with the team for another year, Paul still ended up being included in the trade package that the Rockets sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire Russell Westbrook. Though he understood that the NBA is business, CP3 was still frustrated at his former team for not being true to their words.
After the Thunder successfully qualified in the 2020 Playoffs, Paul would be having the opportunity to have his revenge against the Rockets. After finishing the regular season in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference, Paul and the Thunder will be facing James Harden and the Rockets in the first round. Though Houston clearly holds the advantage in terms of star power, Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report still predicted Oklahoma City to upset them and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
“The tachometers on take machines around the internet will redline if Chris Paul knocks the Rockets out of the playoffs. Last summer, Houston traded him and a load of picks to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook, who may miss a decent chunk of this series. And while Houston is banged up, the Thunder are at full strength. On the season, OKC is plus-7.4 when CP3 shares the floor with Danilo Gallinari. Both should play more in the playoffs.”
Paul and the Thunder undeniably have a realistic chance of upsetting the Rockets in their upcoming match up. Compared to his stint in Houston, Paul is currently doing well in Oklahoma City. He didn’t only succeed to return to his old form, but he also managed to mesh well with the Thunder’s young core. This season, the 35-year-old floor general is averaging 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.7 steals while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from beyond the arc, per ESPN.
Also, while CP3 and their other core players are at their 100 percent health, the Rockets would be entering the 2020 Playoffs without one of the best players, Russell Westbrook. The former MVP recently suffered a strained quadriceps muscle that is expected to put him on the sideline for the first few games of the postseason.
Aside from the absence of “Beastbrook,” Buckley believes that Steven Adams could also be a major problem for the Rockets when they face the Thunder. Though they succeeded to upgrade their wing before the 2020 February NBA trade deadline, they also lost Clint Capela in the process. Without a starting-caliber center on their roster, Adams is expected to feast on boards and get plenty of open looks from Paul, Dennis Schroder, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.