The Houston Rockets failed to break through in the post-season and were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers. After the team’s latest shortcomings, there has been talk about the future of the organization, mostly about James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
With Harden now 31 and Westbrook set to turn 32 in Nov., the Rockets do not appear to be in a position to have an outlook for title contention without making drastic changes. It will have to start with the head coach role but should go beyond that. What should they do?
According to Michael Scott of HoopsHype, an Eastern Conference General Manager privately expressed his belief the Rockets should not trade Harden in the offseason.
“I wouldn’t move Harden,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Michael Scott of HoopsHype. “He’s still so good, and they’re too old right now to just start a rebuild unless you’re getting a Jayson Tatum or Luka Doncic to rebuild around. I’d probably run it back in some shape or form, especially with next year being a compressed time period. I would keep all options open, but I wouldn’t be selling Harden just to the highest bidder. In the last two years, they easily could have won it all, so I don’t think it’s fair to panic yet if they lose. Now, if there’s a great deal out there, that’s a different story, but I still think it’s worth riding out one more year. If Westbrook is tradable, get it done.”
The decision to trade Chris Paul for Westbrook appears to be a major failure for the Rockets at this point. Many felt that Paul’s contract was an albatross at this time last year and now he has legitimate trade value after leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the fifth seed.
After making countless win-now trades involving first round picks, the Rockets lack much for assets to be able to upgrade their team. Houston will need their superstars to carry the load throughout a full playoff run and Westbrook stylistically does not appear to be a match to do that.
If the Rockets do look to trade Russell Westbrook in the NBA offseason, it may be difficult to land a favorable return. Additionally, there could be a substantial burden placed on James Harden to make plays on offense.
Regardless of what the Rockets decide to do, it will be fascinating to see how they navigate the situation. While not every move has worked out, Houston has shown real creativity when making roster changes and are facing their greatest challenge yet.
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