The perfect small-ball coach in Mike D’Antoni is gone. The GM who brought in James Harden and built this unorthodox but successful roster, Daryl Morey, also has walked out the door. Houston has almost no roster flexibility this summer and is locked into its small-ball style. The Rockets are maybe the sixth-best team in the West heading into next season.
All that has led to a lot of “the Rockets should trade James Harden now while he has peak value and blow it all up” speculation.
Don’t bet on it, at least not this summer. That according to the guy who probably knows the Rockets best from the outside, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. He said this on the Pushin’ Thru/Athletes Unfiltered podcast (hat tip Hoopshype).
“The blow it up and start over thing is not for this offseason. And the reason I feel fairly certain about that is they’re certainly keeping James Harden informed and getting his input on coaching, discussions and considerations. You wouldn’t involve him if you’re planning to send them off somewhere.”
For the record, Fiegen says Harden and Westbrook will push for John Lucas as the next coach. He is one of the finalists.
The Rockets were the four seed and on a 50-win pace in the West last season, led by the best pure bucket getter in the game in Harden. That’s a good team. It is a fantasy basketball move to say, “blow that up and let’s win 21 games and suck.” Even if there is some logic to the idea of making that pivot sooner rather than later, actually pulling the trigger on that move, blowing it up to be bad, is not how basketball organizations are wired. They look for ways to win now.
A lot will depend on who the coach is and how next season goes for Houston, but both Harden and Westbrook have two more fully guaranteed seasons (at more than $40 million a season each) plus a third player-option year on their contracts. They may start to look for a Westbrook trade this offseason, but Harden is the heart of the franchise and it’s harder to convince the owner to make that move. Next offseason (whenever that is), it is possible Harden himself looks around, sees an older and inflexible roster around him, and wants to be traded. Then it’s on.
Just don’t expect that this summer.