Some media members trying to grade out the trade deadline — myself included — had the Rockets in the losers category for the trade deadline. The logic goes like this: the Rockets had a disappointing team with dysfunctional chemistry with Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Ty Lawson. Firing the coach didn’t fix things. So at the deadline GM Daryl Morey tried to repair the roster by shopping Howard and Lawson hard, but nothing came of it (because Howard wants to be a free agent this summer and would not opt-in to the final year of his deal). They are the same dysfunctional team they were before, and good luck to J.B. Bickerstaff trying to get that group to play as a unit now.
That said, this wasn’t a disaster for the Rockets. First, they didn’t make any stupid, panic trades that set the franchise back. Second, the one deadline deal they did make — Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to the Pistons for a top-eight protected 2016 first-round pick (and Joel Anthony, who the Rockets flipped in another deal) — is a good one for them.
Morey went on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski after the deadline and defended the moves they made.
“We’re not feeling good about how we’re playing, but we feel good about our roster. It’s the group that made the Western Conference finals last year….
“James and Dwight together have made the Western Conference finals, have won more than two-thirds of their games. This is a group that we would be very reluctant to split up. Obviously there was a lot of interest in (Howard) — I think there was a lot of noise about that — but that was something we were going to be very reluctant to break up. As part of my job, I do have to listen to everything, but nothing got close and we weren’t going to split that up unless it was something significant.”
The buzz is the Rockets were asking a high price for Howard, and some teams might have paid it because he still has real value on the court, but they weren’t going to spend those assets for a rental. They wanted him to say he would opt-in to the final year of his contract. Howard wouldn’t do that, he intends to be a free agent.
So the Rocket will ride this roster into the playoffs, where as it stands they are the eight seed and would get Golden State in the first round. Maybe the Rockets get on a little run, and they could face the Spurs or the Thunder in the first round. They have the talent on the roster Morey likes to create some matchup challenges for any of those teams. But they are not going to get out of the first round.
Then this summer in Houston will be interesting.