The Houston Rockets need to begin a full-fledged rebuild
The Houston Rockets are 11-23 and have lost 13 straight games, which has them near the bottom of the league. It becomes all the more evident in every passing game that this organization needs to begin a full-fledged rebuild, and that the process should begin immediately.
It starts with Rockets general manager Rafael Stone trading away veteran players before the March 25th trade deadline, beginning with Victor Oladipo, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon, and John Wall.
Acquired as part of the team’s return on James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets back in January, Oladipo hasn’t had a strong impact on the Rockets. A soon-to-be free agent, the Rockets need to get value for Oladipo while they still can.
Tucker, like Oladipo, is playing on an expiring contract and should be able to fetch Houston a second-round selection and a young player who’s out of his respective team’s rotation. He’s a gritty hard-nosed defender who can shoot from beyond the perimeter.
Gordon on the other hand has roughly $38 million guaranteed remaining on his contract after this season. Albeit it’s a bit of a tough financial pill to swallow, Gordon’s knack for getting to the rim and being a reliable scorer makes him a movable piece– even if it’s for a mere expiring contract and a second-rounder.
The Rockets Need To Focus On The Future
Wall will be a little bit more difficult to move given his injury history and the $92 million remaining on his contract after this season. At the same time, he’s a smooth and proven two-way floor general who can be one of the leading catalysts for a playoff-bound team. Houston should be able to fetch a future first-rounder for Wall while also taking on his hefty salary — whether it be from the team they’re sending him to or from someone else via a three-plus team swap.
Christian Wood is also a trade candidate given that he’s under contract for two and a half years (Wood signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Rockets last offseason) and is in the midst of having a breakout season. He has been one of the few bright spots for the Rockets and is someone they can build around. Prior to missing the last 13 games due to an ankle injury, Wood was averaging 22.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc.
There is zero sense in the Rockets trying to right the ship with their current roster. The roster was forced together with few compelling youngsters that’s rotting at the bottom of the West. They have a very slim chance of being a playoff team this season or the one that follows.
What does the future hold for Houston?
The Rockets don’t have a young core. They don’t have an identity. What they do have is a bunch of mixed parts, and an organization putting its first-year head coach, Stephen Silas, in an impossible situation to succeed. For Silas’ sake, they need to definitively pick a direction, which should be in rebuilding the team.
If they land a top pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the Rockets could get their hands on a prized prospect like Jalen Green or Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, or perhaps they land the top prospect Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham. The Rockets have two first-round picks this year courtesy of the Harden trade.
Houston can use the Oklahoma City Thunder as a model. Over the last six months the Thunder have moved away from Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari, and landed themselves a plethora of draft capital.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook are gone, and DeMarcus Cousins lasted just 25 games before being released. The veterans are gone, and the majority of the ones that remain will walk in free agency if they are not traded. There’s little to hold on to from a sentimental standpoint. Rebuilding in the West is daunting, but the Rockets have no other viable option.
If the Rockets keep their veterans past March and lose them to free agency, they will have failed to capitalize on their value to contending teams. All of the draft picks in their possession and those that will come with more trades won’t all be made by the Rockets. They can be used to move up for a prospect they deem a difference-maker and maybe trade for a young franchise player down the road.
It’s time to turn the page.