Rockets players are at the heart of a lot of trade rumors swirling around the league; the team has lost 13 in a row heading into the All-Star break and is headed for a rebuild after the trade of James Harden.
However, the Rockets and GM Rafael Stone are looking for a quality young player back in those potential deals, not just a bunch of picks (something they loaded up on in the Harden deal with Brooklyn). Don’t look for the Rockets to follow their own version of “the process” — Sam Hinkie’s bottom-out rebuild in Philadelphia — reports Jonathan Feigen in the Houston Chronicle.
The Rockets have no interest, according to an individual familiar with the team’s thinking, in pursuing their version of “The Process,” by trading off veterans to collect assets and losses that could help lottery chances…
The Rockets will be at best ambivalent even about the idea of trading veterans on expiring contracts, the sort of deals that fuel much of the trade deadline maneuvers around the league…
Even more so with Victor Oladipo, the Rockets would not make a move unless it would be a trade that they would have made regardless of their situation in the standings or how they got there.
First off, saying you’re not eager to make a trade when shopping your players is exactly what a GM should say. One never wants to appear too eager in a negotiation.
That doesn’t mean the Rockets are just looking to bottom out this season. They do not.
Part of this is fueled by the fact Oklahoma City has swap rights on Houston’s first-round draft pick this season, top-four protected. Right now, the Rockets have the third-worst record in the NBA and still only a 52% chance of keeping their pick this year due to the flattened-out draft lottery odds. Losing more doesn’t help them much this season.
Also, young players the Rockets like on their roster — Jae’Sean Tate, Kevin Porter Jr. — already get plenty of run (when healthy).
Other GMs around the league took one key lesson away from Sam Hinkie’s “process” in Philadelphia — he got fired. It’s a fate other GMs strive to avoid. Philly ownership said it was on board with the deep tank losing, but eventually it grew weary of it (and the league office and other owners were not happy about the look), and Hinkie paid the price.
There is something to be said for improving lottery odds most seasons, especially in a top-heavy draft like the 2021 version coming up. However, GMs are only willing to go so far with that now, teams more want to model quicker turnarounds like the one seen in Memphis and other cities, where a team might struggle for a season or two but is not looking to bottom out and just hoard draft picks.
Houston is rebuilding, but it doesn’t want it to be a process.