The Houston Rockets find themselves in a unique position, they have a budding young core and the most draft capital outside of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This offseason will be a pivotal moment as the Rockets start the processes of rebuilding their team.
The Rockets seemingly have two options, they can either use their draft capital and trust their scouting, or they can look to the trade market. With a team like the Clippers doing the latter and a team like the Nuggets doing the former, the most advantageous route is not so clear.
Fast Track Via Trade
With a new regime in Houston, they might feel pressured to act quickly after James Harden left the franchise in disarray. Amid this pressure, the Rockets could look to the trade market to expedite the rebuild process. There is one caveat and that being John Wall would likely need to be included in any significant trade or at least traded in a separate deal. This is due to the nature of Wall’s contract and the likely unwillingness of Rockets head office to go that deep into the luxury tax for Wall. In addition, the moving of Eric Gordon would ease this process significantly as well, although he as well has an undesirable contract.
There are two names floating around the trade market that could make sense or at least fit the mold of fast-tracking through the draft. The first one is Ben Simmons, and admittedly this seems unlikely for a plethora of reasons. Whether it be due to Houston’s history with the 76ers GM Daryl Morey or the predictable disagreement in the price for Simmons, the Rockets are unlikely to end up with Simmons. With that being said, I use Simmons as more of an example as to what a trade for a younger potential-filled player would look like.
As mentioned before, for contract reasons John Wall would need to be moved in some capacity. In addition, it would likely cost the Rockets most of their draft picks and even then the 76ers may not bite at the idea of offloading talent for picks in the middle of Joel Embid’s prime.
For the reasons stated above, if the Rockets pursue this route, it is more likely the case they look at a player such as Damian Lillard. Again as a consequence of the Wall contract, a team such as Portland would likely be more willing to take that contract on. Portland is as well more likely to be happy with draft picks as compensation in a trade with Lillard, as this would initiate a rebuild.
While hearing that Lillard is on your team would likely excite any fanbase, is a team in the position of the Rockets a good fit for a player whose desire is to win a ring as soon as possible? If the Rockets opt to go the route of blockbuster trade, their ability to move on from the Wall contract and the draft picks required to do so will be the focal point.
Trust The Process
The alternative to trading for a big-name player is to use the second overall pick this year and start building through the draft. Houston was gifted a golden opportunity when they won the lottery and landed the second overall pick. This gave them the capital to jumpstart their rebuild whether by drafting at number two or trading it away to move up or for other compensation.
If the Rockets were to draft at the number two spot, they would likely be picking from a pair of dynamic players in Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. The strongest argument made for the rockets going this direction is that this would not cost anything via trade and either of these players could immediately have a star player impact.
With that being said, the alternative argument is that the player the Rockets draft does not turn out and the coveted number two pick did not yield any returns. With everything considered, the Rockets should likely stick with picking at number two or use their extensive draft capital to go up to the number one pick which is heavily rumored.
The newly formed Rockets front office has a beast of a burden in front of them with the looming decisions to come in the next few months.. Unlike many front-office regimes that are newly formed in the NBA, Houston has the ammunition to make significant changes. The result of that is usually a tenured front office regime or a short-lived one. Whatever Houston decides to do, their fanbase has an exciting and pivotal offseason ahead.
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