Houston came into this offseason with very little flexibility in terms of improving their roster, but they were dreaming big regardless.
The Rockets identified Jimmy Butler as a perfect running mate for James Harden and made basically every member of their roster available to try tp create cap space to sign him. But things didn't materialize quick enough for the team, and Butler chose to take his talents to South Beach.
After that surprise signing, it seemed that there would be no path for the Rockets to add an impact player to their roster, so they shifted their focus to adding players around the edge. They signed a group of players, who don't move the needle a lot, if at all.
Ben McLemore is the best player from that free agency group, which should tell you all you need to know. They also brought in Anthony Bennett (one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history) and Deyonta Davis. Plus, Houston brought back Austin Rivers and Gerald Green, both of whom were solid down the stretch but did not quench the thirst of GM Daryl Morey, who craves stars.
It seemed for a while that these moves would be all the Rockets would do during the offseason, but then something weird happened. The Thunder decided to blow up their team, starting with the Paul George to the Clippers. This made Russell Westbrook, one of Harden’s best friends, available.
The only issue was the high paid Point Guard already on the Rockets roster in Chris Paul. There were non-stop rumors that Harden and Paul couldn't co-exist in Houston, rumors that the team tried to quell early in the offseason since it appeared they would be stuck with each other. But then Houston went out and struck a blockbuster deal for the OKC Point Guard for the price of two first round picks, two pick swaps, and one Chris Paul. CP3 had to be included in order to make the money match, but the team’s willingness to include him on top of four valuable assets lends credence to the idea that Paul and Harden were not on great terms.
For the Rockets, this was one of the best moves they could have made. They not only added a star player who has averaged a triple-double for the past 3 years, but they also rid themselves of the egregious contract for Paul and the potential for trouble during the season. Plus, Westbrook is a tremendous upgrade over Paul at this point in their careers. They also did all of this without giving up key contributors Eric Gordon and Clint Capela, which they would have needed to do in order to bring in Butler.
Strangely enough, the team didn't make a single selection in the 2019 draft, so there is nothing to critique or praise there.
Offseason Grade: A | Predicted Western Conference Ranking: 5
This was about to be an F, but then Morey went out and got Russell Westbrook. Getting rid of the Paul contract alone would be worthy of a B+, but bringing in a star in to replace him (and one that happens to be your best player’s close friend) makes this an A. We have seen Russ and Harden on the court together before and saw that it could work. I know there is only one ball, but these guys are too smart and too good to let that hinder their potential.
The Rockets are a lock to be top 5 in the West, but with both players capable of having MVP-type seasons, Houston should be considered strong title contenders in a wide open field.
Graduate of Loyola Maryland and die hard Boston sports fan. "I rub it in pretty good when I win" - Tom Brady