What Would a Houston Rockets Revamp Look Like?

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has stated that the organization is not looking to “blow up the roster”, and that James Harden and Russell Westbrook are essential players for their title hopes… As good as that sounds, we can’t help but speculate on how this team can truly reshape the team. Former GM Daryl Morey spent nearly a decade and a half building this team into a consistent contender but failed to build a team great enough to make an NBA Finals appearance.

As a renowned stats geek, Morey was able to put together competitive teams with structures that didn’t stray too far from the rest of the league. However, this past season, Morey and the Rockets went all-in on Small-Ball with no starter standing over 6’9”.

This ultimately led to a 2nd round ousting against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers which highlighted the team’s lack of size. After yet another failed title run, Morey finally stepped down, presumably ending the Rockets as we know them.

Somewhat in favor of Fertitta’s “we’re keeping Harden and Westbrook” comments, the Rockets promoted Rafael Stone, who has been with the organization longer than Morey has. Either Stone picked up a few characteristics from Morey or he learned what NOT to do as a GM. If the latter, he’ll likely look to deal away Westbrook to reshape this team around Harden.

Or he may even go for a complete roster revamp, dealing both star players to try and rebuild the team in a way that he sees fit. If he does look to deal away either star, here are some realistic deals that would help the Rockets reshape around either star (likely Harden) or completely blow up the core.

BRADLEY BEAL TO HOUSTON, RUSS TO MIAMI

image4.png

Houston Rockets: Bradley Beal, John Wall, Thomas Bryant, Solomon Hill, 2020 WAS 1st, 2022 WAS 1st, future MIA 1st

Miami Heat: Russell Westbrook, future WAS 2nd

Washington Wizards: James Harden, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk

We’ll start this off with a landscape-altering 3-team deal. 3-team deals are some of the toughest deals to think of, especially if we’re being fair to all three parties involved PLUS trying to deal away star players. But I feel this deal makes sense for each team involved.

Of course, it would take some miracle work to get this deal done, as Olynyk must accept his player option and Dragic and Hill are both on the open market. If the Heat can retain these players, this deal would be possible, even if it were pushed back to the trade deadline this upcoming season.

Rockets: The Rockets don’t shed any salary with this deal. So why make a deal that is a clear regression for their guard play? They acquire future assets (picks) and also add a viable C back to their roster with Thomas Bryant. It’s unlikely that the Rockets would be willing to go this far to obtain future assets to build around but if they decide to blow things up, this would be a great start.

Heat: I can’t be alone on this… Westbrook would fit perfectly with the Miami Heat next to Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and the Heat shooters. He could be a seamless fit into the Heat culture as a hard-working, gritty competitor. Also, under Coach Spoelstra’s and Pat Riley’s tutelage, we may see an improved, efficient version of Westbrook. Or it could be a clash of egos, ending a great Miami Heat story.

Wizards: The Wizards should have broken up the Wall-Beal backcourt many moons ago. Wall’s value is the lowest it’s ever been while Beal’s value is the opposite. Getting out of Wall’s contract is bound to cost the Wizards several 1st round picks. Landing a superstar and two quality role players in the meantime would be a huge win for the Wizards. Yes, they’d be giving up multiple 1sts, but they’d have a superstar with at least half a decade of elite-level play now heading their roster.

THE ROCKETS GO BIG, RUSS AND SPIDA LINK UP

image3.png

Houston Rockets: Nikola Vucevic, 2020 UTA 1st, future Lottery-protected UTA 1st

Orlando Magic: Mike Conley, Georges Niang, Ed Davis

Utah Jazz: Russell Westbrook

Here’s another 3-team deal that may benefit all parties involved. The only contractual requirement needed for this deal to work would be Mike Conley accepting his $34M player option… which is just about guaranteed to happen.

Rockets: Houston sheds a little salary while bringing normalcy/tradition back to its starting rotation. Going from Westbrook to Vucevic is a clear downgrade in terms of player value but it’s the only way this team can make space for future deals. And once again, they add young assets with picks.

Magic: The Magic are stuck in NBA purgatory with Vucevic starting at C. He’s good enough to help this average roster sneak into the playoffs each year but not great enough to make a deep playoff run. It may be time to finally unleash Mo Bamba as it’s nearing time for extension negotiations.

Adding Conley may take away from the development of Markelle Fultz but it’s the last year of Conley’s deal, so they wouldn’t be forced to give him meaningful minutes. They’d be adding more salary than they’re shedding but the incoming contracts would help them go into rebuild mode rather than stay in purgatory with Vucevic.

Jazz: The Jazz thought they were adding a clear upgrade at PG with Conley this past offseason. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out as they planned, so why not cut bait and pair dynamic scorer, Donovan Mitchell, with another dynamic guard in Westbrook?

Contrary to popular belief, Westbrook pairs well with a paint-obsessed C like Rudy Gobert (see Steven Adams). The pick-n-rolls and lob drives would be hard to defend in that offense. Losing Niang’s floor-spacing may hurt but it’s worth the upgrade at PG. The clearest potential setback with this deal would be Westbrook’s volatile relationship with the Utah Jazz fans the past few seasons.

ALTERNATIVE

Houston Rockets: Mike Conley, Ed Davis, 2020 UTA 1st

Utah Jazz: Russell Westbrook

PHILLY RELUCTANTLY PUTS FAITH IN RUSSELL WESTBROOK

image5.png

Houston Rockets: Ben Simmons, Al Horford

Philadelphia 76ers: Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, 2023 HOU 1st

An Eric Gordon-Al Horford swap has been discussed for a few months now, as both teams would benefit (on paper). However, let’s add another twist by inserting some star-power. Neither team sheds salary with this deal, but it would help reshape both rosters a bit.

Rockets: The Rockets add immense size, going entirely away from the Morey-D’Antoni era. Landing Simmons would likely cost any team more than just one 1st round pick but for the Rockets, it may be possible with just one.

Defensively, a lineup of Simmons, Harden Covington, Tucker, and Horford would rise towards the top of the league (with Harden’s improved defensive efforts). Offensively, the spacing would still be in question as Simmons adds even less spacing than Westbrook. However, whoever the Rockets choose to be their Head Coach will have a lot of talent/versatility to work with.

76ers: The 76ers get smaller with this deal, yet also more traditional. Pairing Westbrook with Embiid is questionable considering their past duels but if the two can put things behind them, Westbrook may be the engine that helps Embiid become more consistently dominant.

Gordon, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris make more sense between Westbrook and Embiid in the starting lineup than what they attempted to trot out this past season. Moving on from Ben Simmons this soon would be controversial, especially for a 31-year old PG, but it may be needed to allow Embiid to operate at max capacity.

BRANDON INGRAM TO CLUTCH CITY?

image2.jpg

Houston Rockets: Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, Jaxson Hayes

New Orleans Pelicans: James Harden

This deal would bank on Houston believing they can improve on what the Oklahoma City Thunder had with Westbrook while the Pelicans bank on Zion Williamson being ready to compete now. The deal would require a sign-and-trade agreement from Brandon Ingram, but that’s not impossible

Rockets: Though moving on from Westbrook seems more likely to happen than moving on from Harden, this deal actually may work for Houston. Jrue Holiday is heavily coveted for his seamless fit on just about every contending team in the league.

A backcourt of him and Westbrook could scare a lot of NBA backcourts, particularly if Westbrook buys into giving effort on defense consistently. Additionally, if Westbrook is willing to hand the keys over to Ingram as he did with Paul George, we may see another elevation in Ingram’s game.

He’ll no longer look like an empty stats scorer if he can keep up his play next to Westbrook and Holiday. Prying Jaxson Hayes away would also give Houston the rim-running C they’re missing (shame on them for trading Clint Capela).

Pelicans: If the Pelicans don’t believe in Ingram’s fit next to Williamson, they’d be genius’ to flip him for a star player that doesn’t take away from Williamson. Harden is that star player. An offense featuring Harden and Williamson is truthfully quite scary.

Harden can go off for 50 on any night while Williamson is a young, raw offensive beast. Harden’s game may take away from Lonzo Ball a bit (ball dominance) but it would offset Ball’s inability to score consistently. Filling out the rest of the roster would be key to finding the ceiling for this Pelicans roster, but having a core of Harden and Williamson is a phenomenal floor riser.

THE ROCKETS BRING IN A FORMER ALL-STAR AND NBA CHAMPION

image1.png

Houston Rockets: Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, 2021 Top-10 Protected PHX 1st

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kelly Oubre Jr., Danuel House Jr.

Phoenix Suns: Russell Westbrook

Yet another reasonable 3-team deal… I believe. The only uncertain aspect of the deal would be the picks involved/needed.

Rockets: The Rockets again get closer to a more traditional lineup by swapping Westbrook for Love (a big man) and Rubio (another playmaking PG). I thought about adding Tristan Thompson to this deal but figuring out a way to sign-and-trade him is quite difficult not knowing his market value. T

he biggest negative of this deal is that the Rockets wouldn’t be shedding salary until the 2021-2022 offseason when Rubio’s $17.8M is off the books. They would benefit from adding Love’s size while also allowing Harden to focus on scoring even more with Rubio’s more traditional playmaking abilities over Westbrook.

Cavaliers: The Cavs, who undoubtedly regret the contract they doled out to Love, get to fully reset. This deal would allow them to go after a combo forward like Obi Toppin in the draft. Though their backcourt is still in question, having Oubre and House as options on the wings (on top of Cedi Osman and Kevin Porter Jr.) would offer them some more hope for the future.

Moreover, I believe pairing Porter Jr. and Oubre would excite fans with the explosive that both wings offer. There’s not much for the Cavs to be excited about but finally moving on from Love is a much-needed step forward.

Suns: The Suns were a feel-good story in the NBA Bubble going 8-0, even with them still missing the playoffs. The team seemed to finally be ready to turn things around and make the playoffs next season. However, I don’t think the Suns Front Office should buy into the hype. Instead, swapping Rubio and Oubre for a proven star in Westbrook could make Devin Booker the happiest he’s even been while with the organization.

A trio of Westbrook, Booker, and Deandre Ayton isn’t perfect but it’s good enough to be competitive in the Western Conference; something the Suns haven’t been able to confidently say in the Booker era.

STAND PAT

In these deals, I’m banking on the Houston Rockets realizing that the backcourt of Harden and Westbrook, though more dynamic than any other backcourt in the league, doesn’t add up to a true title contender. However, these trade ideas can be completely nullified once we find out who will be the next head coach of the Houston Rockets.

If the Rockets hire a win-now coach, they’ll look for vet-minimum signees or role-player swap deals to complement their superstar backcourt. One thing’s for certain, the Rockets have hundreds of options/directions that they can turn to. This offseason is a crucial one for the future of this franchise, it can set them back half a decade or give them future hope.

What You Expect?