Unable to match the amount of draft picks offered up by the Houston Rockets, and seemingly unwilling to part with prospects, the Miami Heat ultimately wound up outflanked in trade negotiations for Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.
So instead of landing in a preferred destination, Westbrook landed back in championship contention, with ESPN reporting the deal Thursday night.
According to the report, the Thunder will receive point guard Chris Paul from the Rockets as well as Houston first-round picks in 2024 and '26. In addition, the Thunder receive the right to swap first-round picks with the Rockets in 2021 and '25.
The Heat lack such draft capital, currently unable to trade first-round picks due to previous deals. The Thunder, in fact, already own the Heat's 2021 unprotected first-round pick, as well as the Heat's lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick, with both of those selections passed along from the Los Angeles Clippers in last week's acquisition of Thunder forward Paul George.
The Heat had investigated a trade for Westbrook, who, like recent Heat sign-and-trade acquisition Jimmy Butler had expressed interest in playing in South Florida.
But the Heat also have been protective of their young assets, including signing first-round pick Tyler Herro on Wednesday, which left him ineligible to be traded for at least 30 days. The Heat also are counting on the development of center Bam Adebayo and forward Justise Winslow.
The initial belief with a Westbrook trade was that the Thunder would be seeking long-term, salary-cap relief, which seemingly had the expiring contracts of the Heat's Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard in play. Instead, the Thunder opted for the package of draft picks from the Rockets, at the cost of taking on the remaining three years of Paul's contract.
Leonard, who is not eligible to be dealt as part of a package until Sept. 7, privately had expressed concern about being re-routed. He initially was listed at claiming No. 0 with the Heat, but that decision was held off, with Westbrook also wearing No. 0.
The trade reunited Westbrook with James Harden in Houston. The two were teammates with the Thunder when Oklahoma City lost to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals.