The Houston Rockets have made their move. This has been an NBA offseason for the ages. Once free agency got underway, the chips started to move in all directions. There were the Lakers, wanting to add a superstar next to LeBron James, signing Anthony Davis. Of course, there was what most consider the free agency winner, New Jersey Nets landing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Then, you had the wait of all waits. For days the basketball world held their collective breaths waiting to see what Kawhi Leonard what going to do. He wanted to play with Durant but when that didn’t work out, he made a power move of his own and got Paul George to join him with the Clippers.
For the Rockets, James Harden and Chris Paul were put together to bring an NBA title to the state of Texas. For the last two years, the two have come up short against the Golden State Warriors. This past season saw their best chance to take down the Warriors when Durant was unable to play in the Western Conference Finals. But the duo was unable to get it done. During this offseason, though he would not publicly admit it, there have been rumors that Paul was wanting out of Houston. It has been no secret here in Houston that he and Harden have had some rough times during this run.
Now the question is, what will the Thunder do with a 34-year old point guard and his $100 million-plus dollars contract. Could there be talks that will involve the Miami Heat, the other team in the Westbrook running? The Thunder have had one hell of an offseason acquiring 15 picks between now and the 2026 season. They also have the right to swap picks in four of the next seven draft years. Now that is what I call a rebuild mode. Could they add to that load by sending Paul to the Heat?
Here, in H-Town, Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, has now extended the championship window for his team. The first thing NBA fans will say is how do two ball hogs share the same backcourt? Memes have already begun showing Harden and Westbrook fighting over a basketball. But, fans will also see two players hungry for an NBA title. They will see two elite talents that must now find a way to coexist again for the big picture.
When you look at the trade, the Rockets improved because Westbrook is bigger, faster and stronger than Paul. He is coming off his third straight season in which he averaged a triple-double for the entire season. He is one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the league and is a virtually unstoppable force. Yes, he just came off a year where he shot just 65% from the foul line and 29% from three-point range. Yes, he is one of the most dramatic and emotional players that gets a lot of flack for causing turmoil on his team. Still, how can you argue with the move that counters the moves that have already happened in the NBA before this one?
So now, when you look at the teams in contention for next year, the Rockets place themselves firmly in that conversation. The Western Conference is loaded for bear and more. Let’s not leave out the Utah Jazz and how they have improved tremendously this offseason. But, for the fans here in Houston, they see their team, a team that has made the Western Finals the past two years, as a team that should be there again.
You are not going to slow down Harden and you sure can’t do that to Westbrook. If they stay injury-free and play up to their fullest potential, the fans will see this conference being a dogfight to the end. With the Jazz and their upgrades, James and AD with the Lakers, and Kawhi and George on the Clippers, the Houston Rockets sure have their work cut out for them.
It sure has been a fun summer so far in the NBA and summer ain’t over yet. Let’s see what else might be in store for us as we look ahead to the 2019-2020 NBA season.