The 2017-2018 season looked like it was the year for the Houston Rockets, entangled in a tight Western Conference Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors. Houston ended up losing in seven games. They lost, but not before turning heads around the league regarding their potential with a loaded roster.
Mired in controversy, was the status surrounding Chris Paul‘s hamstring injury during the series against Golden State. Paul was forced to miss a crucial Game 7 that ended with Golden State winning.
Daryl Morey, general manager of Houston, has done a great job surrounding star players James Harden and CP3 with a bevy of crucial role players that make an instant impact on the floor. Guys like Gerald Green and Eric Gordon were faced with additional pressure to shoulder more of the workload when Paul and Harden went down at respective times this season with injury.
Morey knows that he has his work cut out for him this offseason. According to RocketsWire, he stated: “Generally, we want to bring our free agents back,”. Free agents for the Rockets this offseason include: Paul, Green, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, and Luc Mbah a Moute.
It appears the Rockets plan to do everything in their power to bring back Paul following a near trip to the NBA Finals and a franchise record 65 regular season wins. The same goes for Capela, who is a contender for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. The Rockets know that in order to get to the Finals they need more talent around Harden and Paul. They also know that they did not have enough fire power when CP3 went down.
Not much is clear on what the Rockets will end up doing this offseason with other big contract talents like Ariza. Ariza, 32, has shown his value on the Rockets as he can shoot threes, drive through the lane, rebound, and, most importantly, defend at an elite level. With that being said, Ariza is likely looking for his last, long-term deal. He is a mid-level player that could warrant a big payout from some team if not Houston. If Ariza walks, should the Rockets pursue Paul George or LeBron James?
The obvious answer to the question, James.
For George, a lot of people see him leaving the Thunder likely for the Lakers, however George could be seen as a safety net for the Rockets if they are unable to attract James. Locking up a player like George could give the Rockets a slight advantage over a healthy Warriors team. Additionally, George would be a major upgrade at over Ariza as he averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and two steals. He is an elite scorer and defender, one of the best two-way players in the league.
Meanwhile, James has not shown his hand, at all, to the media or given any further indication for his plans when the Finals wrap up. There has been a lot of speculation that LeBron will once again leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for a younger, more talented team. The teams mentioned as possible suitors for the king have been: the Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics.
The Rockets have a few advantages that could help them in landing King James. First, they have Paul who is a longtime friend of James. Second, they have a core of Harden, Paul, and Capela who need no introduction to a complimentary playmaker like LeBron. Going to Houston would be one of the better rosters for James to join in regards to All-Star level talent.
With regard to how the Rockets would handle any pending luxury-tax questions, Morey stated, “Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta had green-lit the kind of payroll and enormous luxury taxes it would take to return a starting five’s worth of free agents — Paul, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and Gerald Green — to next season’s roster. Tarik Black, Joe Johnson and Aaron Jackson also will be free agents.”
It should be made evident that if Houston attracts even a minimal level of interest from James or even PG13 their big-board, in free agency, will undoubtedly change and their roster could look much different following the summer.
The Rockets have to capitalize this offseason on reeling in one of the big stars in addition to bringing Paul back. If they strikeout on the big name guys, they have to figure out which players are worth bringing back as well as some other guys to pursue that could give them a shot at winning. Remember, they were only a half away from playing in the NBA Finals so you know they will be active this summer.