The Houston Rockets have been one of the headliners of the 2020 NBA offseason, but not really for good reasons. Much of the drama that has ensued has included Houston in some fashion. There were major changes in the coaching department (Mike D’Antoni to Stephen Silas) and front office (Daryl Morey to Rafael Stone), while the two superstars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook want out.
The new front office is now maneuvering its way through this Harden and Westbrook mess. There have been rumors about a Harden trade to the Brooklyn Nets, but things have been quiet on that front lately. Westbrook’s trade market doesn’t seem to be too hot.
As of right now, the Rockets seem content to go into the season with Harden and Westbrook on the roster. They’re not going to rush into anything and make a bad deal just to get rid of them.
With that in mind, Houston looked to improve the roster around its disgruntled stars, perhaps in an attempt to get them to change their minds. It’s hard to say the Rockets moved the needle that much given some of the other moves made in a loaded Western Conference, but there were a few notable moves.
Houston appeared heading straight for a rebuild when it traded Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers for Trevor Ariza, the No. 16 pick and a protected 2021 first-round pick. However, the Rockets later flipped Ariza and the 16th pick (Isaiah Stewart) as part of a sign-and-trade deal for Christian Wood.
The Wood acquisition is definitely a plus. After bouncing around the NBA to start his career, Wood finally got a consistent role with the Pistons, which allowed the league to see his full capabilities. He finished the season averaging 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds through only 21.4 minutes of play. The Rockets are banking on him playing a pivotal role as they look to play a bit bigger, as opposed to being super small all the time. He’s an agile big who can space for the floor and knock down the occasional 3-pointer. The 25-year-old shot 38.6% on 3-pointers last season.
Houston wasn’t done getting bigger in the frontcourt, gambling on DeMarcus Cousins’ talent. Cousins is attempting to find his form again after dealing with various injuries dating back to his Achilles tear in 2018. While Boogie is still very talented, he’s a liability on the defensive end and the injuries have sapped him of some of his offensive dominance. His latest injury involving a torn ACL with the Los Angeles Lakers only hurt his value even more in free agency.
Still, Cousins comes as a low-risk, high-reward option for Houston. If he’s able to shake off his injury-plagued past and post even the sample size of numbers that he did with the Golden State Warriors, it could be hugely beneficial to the Rockets’ efforts up front. In that aspect, they were successful in addressing their needs for a center.
Houston has also made some smaller moves throughout this offseason. While the Rockets traded away that No. 16 pick, they did acquire a second-round pick and got Kenyon Martin Jr. out of it. Sterling Brown was also brought in for wing depth, though Austin Rivers went to the New York Knicks. Ben McLemore is back in the fold.
Overall, Houston made a few decent moves that could help them in the future. However, the Harden and Westbrook trade requests are a dark cloud hanging over this franchise. It’s a tough spot for a new coach and new front office to be in, and it keeps this grade from being anything more than average. It would even be fair to say the Rockets deserve an incomplete grade, but we’ll still give them something here.