The Houston Rockets have surpassed everyone’s expectations this season thanks to the brilliant play of James Harden and a team which knows exactly what to do. But it says something about the modern NBA that even though the Rockets have the fourth-best record in the league, FiveThirtyEight only gives Houston a three percent chance of winning the championship this year. The Rockets may reach the second round and even the Western Conference Finals, but their flashy offense and Harden’s genius would likely be snuffed out at that point by the domineering power of Golden State.
The Rockets like every other team must figure out how to adjust to the domineering power of the Warriors, especially as the Rockets will be at the center of trade rumors like they are every year. But it is highly likely that Houston will stand pat and not make any significant moves thanks in part to the Warriors.
Trades vs. Chemistry
Daryl Morey and the Rockets are of course enthusiastic about this team’s success this season, but it does make trading pieces more challenging. The important thing to note about the Rockets is that they really have not won games through talent like the Warriors. The Rockets win games because they have fantastic chemistry, every player knows their roles on defense and offense, and because James Harden is the MVP.
But there are two small problems with this. The first is that overall, the Rockets do not have many holes. They could use some more big men to help their rebounding issues, and they could use another decent wing to keep Corey Brewer off the court, but these are minor issues. But if the Rockets trade some of their key players away for some talent upgrade, that will create new holes which may end up offsetting the increased talent. This is especially true when you consider how the chemistry would change with such a trade. Place a bet on it with 247pph.
In an ordinary season, Morey could justify such a move by saying that the Rockets have to take a chance, but this gets to the problem of the Warriors. Even if the Rockets got a player like Serge Ibaka (and there are rumors of such a trade inquiry), that would not be enough to get this team past Golden State. There is no reason to give up future assets and risk messing with this team’s chemistry, and thus there is little incentive to make a move towards improving this team in the present.
Building for the Future?
If the Rockets cannot build a team this season which can defeat the Warriors, then the logical step is to focus towards the future. Nate Duncan observed that Houston could possibly get up to $20 million in cap space if they can dump Brewer’s corpse and waive some unguaranteed players.
But even if the Rockets intend to start building towards the future, there is no reason to accomplish that now. The Rockets may not be able to beat the Warriors in the playoffs, but that does not mean this has been an unsuccessful season. They can wait until the offseason to build towards next season, and let the chips fall as they are and see how much this team can accomplish. The playoffs will offer more information about what this team needs to contend.
Houston has no reason to give up present assets to build towards the future when they can do it in the offseason. They have no reason to give up future assets to build towards the present because the Warriors are so dominant. And there is little incentive to make a talent upgrade because this team works through knowing their roles and chemistry.
Consequently, there is little reason to expect the Rockets to make a move at the trade deadline this offseason. While the rumors will swirl like always, Daryl Morey will likely stand pat for the first season in a long time.