Houston Rockets: Free agency approach is a huge gamble for team’s future

PJ Tucker #17 and Eric Gordon #10 help up James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
PJ Tucker #17 and Eric Gordon #10 help up James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets are reportedly heavily interested in trying to pull off a huge sign-and-trade scenario with the Philadelphia 76ers and another team that would land them the four-time All-Star, Jimmy Butler.

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported that the Houston Rockets are actively shopping around Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon in hopes of getting a first-round pick and a third team involved in a potential three-team deal.

ESPN’s report makes it clear that Houston is very committed to trying to land a third star to play alongside James Harden and Chris Paul.

While at first glance, adding Jimmy Butler to play alongside “The Beard” and “CP3” seems like it would be a tremendous trio that could very well be favored to hoist up the Larry O’Brien trophy in June of 2020, there are few issues that could arise just from an all-out pursuit of Butler which could come back to hurt Houston in the future.

Potential Drawbacks


The summer of 2019 for the Rockets has been filled with rumors about tension due to the style of play between Harden and Paul.

Houston was criticized all year long for their heavy reliance on Harden’s iso-ball, and there are many critics that believe that the iso-ball style will never be successful in winning a championship.

While much of the Rockets’ offense since Paul arrived in Houston has been both Harden and Paul taking turns running it, it would be unique to imagine the fit that three dominant ball-handlers on one team would look like.

If there is any coach with the offensive creativity to incorporate an effective style with three ball-dominant players, Mike D’Antoni is the guy to do it; however, Butler is also known for being hot-tempered and if Houston were to struggle to make the three fit right off the gate, Butler’s personality could add tension to the locker room.

Roster Depletion

The Rockets will likely require to have to trade away Capela and either Gordon or Tucker, if not both, in order to bring Butler to Houston.

While a core of Harden, Paul and Butler is stronger than almost any other team can offer, the loss of three key starters would be hard to replace despite as talented as those three are.

If Houston must trade away three of their starters from the 2018-19 season, they would be left with only the taxpayer-mid level exception (worth around $5.7 million) and veteran-minimum contracts to fill the rest of their roster.

As the NBA world witnessed first-hand with the series of injuries that struck the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, depth is important because injuries can occur at any time. If a team is not deep enough to play through them, they will fall.

Hard Feelings

While both Gordon and Tucker have commented on the trade rumors and have both stated that the NBA is a “business”, they are both human and could feel undervalued due to the team trying to trade them away.

Both Gordon and Tucker have played crucial roles in the Rockets’ playoff runs the past two seasons, and Houston has only had one roadblock in the Golden State Warriors which now appears to have cleared, at least for one season, as both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are expected to miss most of the 2019-20 season with injuries.

Where hard feelings could come back to hurt the Rockets would be when Gordon becomes a free agent in 2020 and Tucker becomes a free agent in 2022. They will surely both remember the Rockets aggressively trying to move them this summer if they are still on the team and no Jimmy Butler trade manifests.

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Losing both Gordon and Tucker in Free Agency would mean the Houston Rockets lose out on two key talents without any compensation.