3 bold offseason predictions for the Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets’ season once again came to screeching halt at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The Rockets squandered an especially golden opportunity to finally knock off their tormentors for four of the last five postseasons with Warriors leading scorer Kevin Durant out for the rest of the series.
Last season, the Rockets suggested they would have defeated the Warriors and won a title had Chris Paul been able to play in the last two games of the Western Conference Finals. Now, with a healthy Paul and the Warriors missing Durant, the outcome remains the same: Golden State owns Houston.
This season was a failure for Houston. Considering how it ended, this should be an interesting offseason for the Rockets. They certainly don’t have much flexibility with two max-players in James Harden and Paul already under contract. Moreover, they still have Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker making a combined $39 million, combining with the salaries of Harden and Paul for a five-player total of nearly $116 million.
Daryl Morey will never shy away from making a bold move that gives Houston a better chance to win a championship. Here are some moves that may just brew in Morey’s mind at some point during the summer:
Trade Chris Paul
Chris Paul is still really good. But let’s face it, Father Time is already catching up to him, and he’s always an injury risk.
Sure, Paul was awesome in Game 6, with 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 11 rebounds, and six assists. But he’s just going to get older and perhaps even more injury-prone next year. He already declined a bit this season, averaging a career-low in points per game and field goal percentages. Add the fact that the Rockets still have to pay him $124 million over the next three seasons, and $44 million by his age 36 season, and this deal could become a disaster sooner rather than later.
If they want to get value maximum value for CP3 and get out of this potentially terrible contract, the Rockets have to consider moving him this summer.
Put Clint Capela on the Trade Block
This is going to be tough for the Rockets. Clint Capela is such an important part of their system, and their only rim-protector. He had a career year for Houston with averages of 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 64.8 percent shooting.
However, all those numbers dipped in the postseason, especially in the Golden State series, when he averaged 8.8 points and 10 rebounds per game. Capela was not able to finish at the rim as often as he did during the regular season. Moreover, the Warriors exploited him in pick-and-roll situations on both ends of the floor.
Capela also isn’t a lock for Mike D’Antoni’s final five, as he often goes with the small-ball lineup featuring P.J. Tucker at center. With Capela often left off the floor in crunch timw, perhaps the Rockets can explore acquiring a wing that better fits their switch-everything defensive scheme against Golden State.
Or maybe, they could also consider a big man that can further stretch the floor to open up driving lanes for James Harden. How about a trade for Kevin Love?
Run it back…again?
Yeah, perhaps this is pretty bold considering how Houston’s season just ended. Let’s not forget, this series, in some ways, was a lot closer than last year’s despite it ending a game shorter.
Despite the loss, the Rockets were still very close to knocking off their most consistent tormentors. If a few bounces had gone their way, they could be moving on to the Western Conference Finals. One or two of those 27 straight misses from three a year ago drop in, and they could have been the West’s representative in the NBA Finals.
As mentioned, the Rockets don’t have much flexibility. They have minimal chances of signing a real difference-maker. They only have Harden, Paul, Capela, Tucker, Gordon, and Nené signed for next season. Austin Rivers and Iman Shumpert are likely gone as teams can pry them away with more money than the Rockets could offer.
But over the past two years, the Rockets have added veterans on minimum contracts and acquired key rotation players during buy-out season. This year, they won out with Rivers.
Morey definitely has a lot to think about this offseason. His team’s championship window will only get smaller as Paul continues to age. But hey, maybe the Warriors break up after this run? The Rockets have to be next in line, right?