With almost every report and commentary that we’ve seen this summer we continue to see the Houston Rockets listed on the “Losers” list for this off-season. The problem with most of those assessments is that most of these national writers and opinion makers did not watch the Rockets play game-in and game-out last season.
Those of us that did are less concerned with the Rockets off-season. It’s well known and has been discussed here at House of Houston how the Rockets failed on the defensive end last year. Yes, James Harden now has the notorious YouTube video and has been branded an extremely poor defensive player, although the metrics suggest that he’s not as bad as his reputation.
Still the Rockets clearly believe – and I think correctly so – that James Harden/Trevor Ariza wing combo is actually a better FIT than Harden/Chandler Parsons was last year. Parsons went backwards on the defensive end of the court from where he was as a rookie to where he was last year.
Ariza, on the other hand, is one of the best wing defenders in the league and actually showed to be a better three-point shooter than Parsons last year. With the style that the Rockets like to play, that is a better fit.
I would argue that the Rockets starting five may actually be better now than they were last year due to better fit and better defense. However the critics that stomp on the Rockets off-season also lump in the failed attempt at Chris Bosh, even though they all admit that they would have done the same, as well as moving Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. Of course when that’s mentioned we see comments as though they unloaded them for nothing in return.
With Jeremy Lin, a case can be made for that. However the Rockets did get out from under the $15 million owed to him this season and they did get a fairly large trade exception that can help facilitate another trade this season for a significant player.
With Omer Asik, the media types seem to be ignoring the almost guaranteed lottery pick that the Rockets received from New Orleans. That my friends is NOT “nothing”. Does anybody see the Pelicans making the playoffs this year in the West??? They would have to leapfrog two of the three among the Suns, Mavericks and possibly the Grizzlies to do so. Unless Anthony Davis takes a huge step forward or the other teams have injuries or big disappointments, that isn’t very likely to happen.
That puts the likelihood of this draft pick in the 10-14 range in 2015. If for example, Anthony Davis misses some time this season with an injury of some sort, it could easily push the Pelicans pick into the 6-10 range in next year’s draft.
Also ignored in most of these articles and commentary have been Jeremy Lin’s struggles with consistent contribution and the fact that Omer Asik provided close to zero to the team until late March and April. However, depth on the roster is the biggest immediate concern for the Rockets, and we all know Darryl Morey is still angling for another star caliber player.
Some roster depth was gained with the signings of Joey Dorsey, Jeff Adrien, Ish Smith and the new contract for Troy Daniels. But that’s likely not the complete bench that Morey and Kevin McHale plan to see for the bulk of the season and especially headed into the playoffs.
With the decision to pass on matching the Parsons offer-sheet, Morey clearly stated that he wasn’t ready yet to be “locked in” with the roster. He has the mid-level exception ($5.3 million) at his disposal as well as the Bi-Annual Exception ($2.077 million). Yet, it’s been eerily quiet for a couple weeks.
Morey may still use those exceptions on a vet like Shaun Marion or Emeka Okafor or he may wait into the season and catch a cast off because he can offer more money, the way the Clippers did last year with Glen Davis, among others.
Morey however, is currently waiting on situations with other teams. The Kevin Love trade, once completed will bring some things into light and possibly create opportunities. The Restricted Free Agent situations with
Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe will as well.
The Phoenix Suns situation is of great interest to the Rockets. Rumor is the Suns want to keep Bledsoe and for another team trying to attract stars, a blossoming player like Bledsoe makes sense. However the Isaiah Thomas signing along with other drafted point guards and combo guards was puzzling and creates a glut at the guard position for the Suns.
This kind of opportunity that can come up is the reason Daryl Morey likes to keep roster flexibility. The Suns situation should make either Bledsoe or Goran Dragic available. The Suns may “say” they want to keep both but the reality is, if they want to improve their overall roster and move up from the 9th slot in the West and into the playoff, they have to consider moving Dragic if they re-sign Bledsoe.
The cost of a move like that for the Rockets is not easy to determine. What would the Suns want? Most likely the Suns want a legit big man. They could have interest in Donatas Motiejunas after the way he played in the summer league. Certainly they could be interested in the Pelicans pick, but even if they’d rather have a player, that Pelicans draft pick could be used to engage a 3rd team in a 3-way trade.
The Pacers for example, could be players in that now after losing Paul George for the season. And there had been talk previously of them moving Roy Hibbert. It could very well be a season that the Pacers essentially write off, pick up quality draft picks and try to reload with next year’s draft and George returning hopefully.
Another option could be and 3-way trade with the Pistons, if rumors of Phoenix interest in Greg Monroe is real. A trade that lands Monroe in Phoenix along with Bledsoe, with Goran Dragic to the Rockets and draft picks and young players to the Pistons to continue building around Andre Drummond could be possible.
All just conjecture, but that’s the kind of creativity that it could take and we all know Morey is creative when it comes to making moves.
So does a move for Dragic makes the Rockets a championship contender? I would argue it definitely gets them a whole lot closer.
I doubt that they put Patrick Beverley in a trade for Dragic unless it’s to a 3rd team, it simply wouldn’t make sense for Phoenix. So I’m going to assume Beverley is still here, coming off the bench.
The Rockets would have the flexibility to play any combination of the three (Harden, Dragic, Beverley) together with Dragic’s ability to play the shooting guard spot with Beverley, at times. Add the minutes for Troy Daniels also at shooting guard as a space creating three-point shooter and the Rockets are pretty well set at guard.
The big question could be would they have to put Terrence Jones in a deal like that? And if so, then what do you do at the power forward position? I tend to think they wouldn’t unless a power forward was also coming back to them, but it is possible.
Dragic has value certainly and is currently a borderline All-star if he can keep up this level of play. But he also is only locked in for 1-year contract wise, holding a player option for the following year. Ironically the player option year that Daryl Morey initially did not want to give him when he left Houston via free agency two years ago.
So does Dragic give the Rockets the coveted 3rd star? Possibly. If he plays at the level he did last year, then yes. A point guard that can create, run the floor, score and shoots threes at a very high clip. He would fit in very nicely with James Harden. He would help provide spacing for Harden and Howard as well as be the third offensive option that can step up when needed to carry more of the load. And retaining Beverley allows the Rockets to still match-up as needed against elite offensive point guards.
At the very least it gives the Rockets another borderline star and with Ariza easily replaces what they lost with Parsons and Lin, and then some. Dragic is also on a cap friendly contract that still doesn’t lock them in, if by some chance the mix does not work out as well as they thought it would. And the Rockets would still have the exceptions to add a couple other pieces if needed and as opportunity arises.
The Rockets are playing the waiting game. Waiting for Phoenix and Bledsoe to decide what they are going to do. Patience is the key as it was when Morey made the move to get James Harden. But it’s the kind of patience that could pay off and increase the Rockets chances at a championship.
And that would turn these so-called offseason “losers” into offseason winners.
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