Right now, the Houston Rockets are on Golden State’s doorstep, wanting to walk inside and steal the title of “best team in the NBA.” The Rockets have a better record (by one fewer loss), and if you strip garbage time out of the equation (as Cleaning the Glass does with its stats), the Rockets have a better net rating (+12.3 points per 100 possessions to +11.6). The Rockets have the best offense in the NBA and are a top seven defense (top six without garbage time). Can Houston knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series? I’m not convinced (if both teams are healthy), but they have the best shot of anyone in the Association. The Western Conference Finals will be knock-down, drag out.
And GM Daryl Morey isn’t done.
They are underdogs, maybe big ones, but Morey has long promised that he will go for it if he thinks Houston has even a 5 percent chance of winning a ring. He will hunt likely LeBron this summer, per league sources, and hopes to sign Paul to another long-term deal. With Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza headed toward free agency, just bringing this group back could vault Houston well into the luxury tax. Tilman Fertitta, the team’s new owner, has said he would pay the tax to preserve a contender.
There are ways to make this work financially, especially if the Rockets can offload Ryan Anderson (he has played well for Houston this season, but at $20 million a year for two more years he’s overpaid for his role).
Then the question becomes, does LeBron want to go to Houston? He may look around the league and think staying in Cleveland is his best bet. However, if winning more titles is the most important thing, as he and his agent have said, than a super-team in Houston is the best route.
Then what it really comes down to is what Lowe mentions in the final paragraph: How much of a stomach does new owner Tilman Fertitta have for the luxury tax? Because LeBron isn’t taking less than the max, and CP3 likely will not either, so there is going to be a big bill to pay for winning. One that could get steeper as time goes on, those stars salaries go up, and the repeater tax kicks in. Owners all say they will pay the tax to win, but how much tax and for how long?
Bottom line, LeBron to the Rockets is on the table.