“Disasters are divine intervention in disguise.”
A disaster of All-Morey proportions.
That is all that can be said about the Rockets this season after a paltry 41-41 record despite bringing back all the key pieces of last year’s Western Conference Finals run. The causes for all of Houston’s troubles this season (I’m looking at you Ty) have been broken down at length, but let’s do something different: let’s follow Dwight Howard’s example and give up on this season even though we’re still in the playoffs.
Let’s satisfy Daryl Morey and Leslie Alexander’s ultimate quest for a Houston Big 3 by looking ahead at the off-season and trying to fix this mess.
The Rockets have a history of taking big swings during free agency; Chris Bosh and LeBron James for example, are two big names who the Rockets have recently attempted to lure to The Bayou City to no avail. Also, how could we forget #numbersevengate, when the Rockets disrespected Jeremy Lin by plastering this image around Toyota Centre of Carmelo Anthony wearing his number while he was still on the books?
From past trend analysis we can accurately predict that the Rockets will have another star on their radar come the free agency period this offseason (how good are analytics!?) There are plenty of big names looking for max deals in the free-agent market: Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside will most likely command large contracts – not to mention Bradley Beal, Pau Gasol and Mike Conley, each of whom will receive a nice raise of their own.
Yes, there are a couple of big names on the ticket this off-season, but none are bigger than James Harden’s former home-boy Kevin Durant. Numerous news outlets have reported that Harden will be recruiting Durant heavily, selling him on the opportunities in Houston; but is it really plausible for a big 3 of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant to come together?
Daryl Morey would like us to think so.
‘This off-season we plan to use our strong players, organization, and city to draw the top free agents in the NBA available as our primary tool to improve the team.’
– Daryl Morey
Obviously, it’s prohibited to mention specific players, but we all know who he’s talking about. Many ‘back channel’ sources have said such a Big 3 is the definite aim for the Rockets: but let’s try to decipher whether it is actually plausible that these 3 end up on the Rockets next season.
From a Salary Cap stand-point, the numbers check out. Houston has 7 expiring contracts in the off-season, with Dwight holding a player-option that he adamantly claims he will decline, and two team-options for Beasley and Goudelock. Houston will likely exercise the team option on Beasley to keep him at such a bargain fee, but after Goudelock’s unimpressive stint this season, I doubt they will hold on to him. Per RealGM, the cap is expected to spike to $89M for the 2016-17 season, and with Dwight opting out, and before re-signing all free agents, the Rockets will have around $44M left to throw at free-agents. A max contract for Kevin Durant would be 35% of $89M, so that would take up around $31M of the remaining cap. Feasibly, with the use of bird rights and a cash jettisoning trade or two, the numbers work out for the Rockets to create a Big 3 in Houston.
There is one issue, however, that can’t be quantified by numbers (despite what Morey and his boy Hinkie might claim) – ‘fit’. Dwight Howard obviously isn’t happy in Houston and, at this point, he isn’t even the second option in the team’s offensive structure. Is it likely that Dwight re-signs in Houston, just to move further down in the pecking order behind Durant? The only chance Dwight considers signing in Houston is if Durant commits as well, and I doubt he would be willing to sacrifice his offensive game even if it meant that he would be able to win a championship.
Does this make sense for the Rockets?
Durant definitely makes sense for the Rockets, as a new James Harden – Kevin Durant offensive tandem could be unstoppable and the small-ball capabilities for that team would be absolutely insane. It’s the Dwight Howard side of the deal that is concerning for the Rockets – there are too many questions that need to be raised about Howard’s future in Houston:
Is it worth giving a guy a contract who is likely to be bereft of his athleticism by the time his contract expires?
Can you unequivocally justify giving max dollars to a guy who is delusional in thinking he is still in his prime?
The Prophet and I conversed on this topic and concluded that if he was willing to accept a DeAndre Jordan type role as an exclusive pick-and-roll and lob threat player, he might be worth the money. The issue is, we’re not even sure he’s capable of being at that level anymore:
“It’s depressing, but Dwight has declined so much, the Rockets are now actually 2 parts away from a Big 3.”
– The Prophet
As we have seen in the past, Daryl Morey will maneuver his way towards that ever-elusive Houston Big 3 this off-season. If Morey strikes out on Durant, it will be interesting to see who else he pursues to fit in next to Harden in the back-court, regardless of the KD situation. What was already looking like a fun off-season with the major salary cap increase is looking even more enticing for Rockets fans as Daryl looks to resolve the All-Morey problems he’s created.
by James D’Elia