LeBron James has decided to once again leave Cleveland, this time taking his talents to Los Angeles. How does this move impact the Rockets?
Although it was a long shot, the Rockets’ front office did their best to land LeBron James in free agency. Unfortunately, James made the decision to join the Lakers instead.
In the days leading up to Sunday, there were whispers that the Lakers were the favorites to land James. A secret meeting between James and Magic Johnson on Saturday night likely sealed LeBron’s decision. He was going to become a Laker.
LeBron’s decision impacts a lot of teams around the league. Obviously, for the Lakers, they’ll make the postseason for the first time in five years. The Cavs will not be going to their fifth consecutive Finals next year, and they probably won’t make the playoffs.
Also, the talent gap between the east and the west is as wide as its ever been. The vast majority of the league’s superstars are now in the Western Conference. James joining the Lakers could force the NBA to scratch having two conferences and just rank the playoffs by the top 16 teams, regardless of geographic location.
For the first time in eight years, someone besides a LeBron-led team will make the NBA Finals in the east. The Celtics, Raptors and Sixers will likely fight for the top spot, with Boston being the favorites to make the Finals.
That’s a lot and we probably haven’t even scratched the surface. Now, let’s talk about how this move impacts the Rockets.
How LeBron’s decision impacts the Rockets
Just over a week ago, Rockets GM Daryl Morey said that the team would be ‘aggressive’ in free agency. Besides re-signing Chris Paul and Clint Capela, Houston’s top targets were LeBron and Paul George.
George decided against going home to Los Angeles or joining Houston and returned to OKC on a four-year, $137 million contract. LeBron decided to join the media capital of the world and play for the historic Los Angeles Lakers.
As we saw last season, the Thunder aren’t close to being contenders, but the Lakers are a different story.
If the Lakers waive and Luol Deng‘s $36.8 million contract using the stretch provision and renounce the rights to restricted free agent Julius Randle, they could potentially clear up enough cap space to sign a free agent.
The Lakers could look to sign superstar center DeMarcus Cousins, who is coming off of a torn Achilles injury. They’re also looking at restricted free agent Clint Capela, who they met with on Sunday. Although, the Rockets will likely match any offers that Capela receives.
Furthermore, Kawhi Leonard is still focused on joining the Lakers, according to a report. Leonard isn’t a free agent, nor does he a no trade clause in his contract. Although, with LeBron in the fold, the Lakers will be more likely to send San Antonio whatever they ask for in return for Leonard.
As the Lakers stand now, they’re probably the third best team in the west behind Golden State and Houston. The Rockets shouldn’t be worried about the Lakers, as they won 65 games a season ago and were a half away from the NBA Finals.
However, if Los Angeles signs another big name player, the Lakers will be in the same conversation as the Rockets and Warriors. That wouldn’t knock Houston out of title contentions, but they’d have to compete with two other behemoths in the Western Conference.