Silly season has turned into serious season this time of the year in the NBA, where every single player in the league seems poised for a change of scenery.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve won an MVP in the past two or three years. It doesn’t matter if you’re the heartbeat of an organization. Player movement has never been more popular.
This past week it was learned that Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has every intention to make some major moves this summer. Could a full rebuild be underway?
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor and Bill Simmons discussed the state of the Rockets franchise on Simmons’ podcast this week, and Simmons iterated that there is real tension within the Houston organization when it comes to the team’s direction. Simmons said that there was a “power struggle” between Mike D’Anoni, Morey and relatively new owner Tilman Fertitta. D’Antoni also just broke off contract talks with the Rockets, possibly signaling that a massive changing of the guard was coming.
The Ringer’s Haley O’Shaughnessy went so far as to entertain a James Harden trade this week, writing the following:
“Houston’s main objective will change this summer. Since Kevin Durant’s arrival in Golden State, the Rockets have been singularly focused on building a team to beat the Warriors. Now, that focus shifts to keeping Harden happy. Just because he’s under contract through the 2022-23 season (and set to make $228 million) doesn’t mean he can’t agitate for a change in scenery. Failing to surround a superstar in his prime with what he needs is grounds to demand a trade. Morey can’t afford to keep the roster the same, but he can’t afford a complete failure to launch, either.”
Fertitta is committed to keeping the Rockets a contender on the surface. But at the same time, he can’t be happy with Morey almost always bumping up against the luxury tax with no championships to show for it.
Trading Harden would give the Rockets unbelievable cap relief for sure. But these four quarters for a dime trades rarely work out for the team receiving the silver George Washingtons.
Morey would need to be overwhelmed by a deal.
As for which teams could actually pull off a Harden deal, it’s the usual suspects: the Celtics, the Lakers, the Knicks, the Sixers and Bulls. All of those teams have traceable assets that the Rockets would covet under a massive rebuild and all of those teams also need to poop or get off the pot when it comes to making a run at a title.
If the Lakers can somehow finagle a deal for Anthony Davis and give up all of their young assets including the No. 4 pick, then that domino would fall hard to the Celtics – who would be under intense pressure to make a move themselves.
Morey worked for Danny Ainge and the Celtics before moving on to the Rockets organization, and would at least listen to Ainge if he came to him with a trade proposal for Harden. The Celtics would need to give up nearly every asset they have: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, all three of their first round picks this year and the Memphis Grizzlies pick that could turn over into an unprotected first round pick in two years.
The Knicks would also need to give up the farm (No. 3 pick, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith) for Harden but as everyone is aware, New York will be in the business of building a superteam one way or another this summer.
The Sixers would need to dish off Ben Simmons and all of their remaining assets, but a Philly deal for Harden seems much less likely than the Celtics or Knicks potentially getting involved.
And finally, a darkhorse for a blockbuster trade this summer is the Bulls – who were obviously not happy with their lottery results. Chicago is tired of going through the tanking process and may look to accelerate their rebuild this summer by cashing in their chips.