“What’s exciting about this deal is it gives us flexibility…”
Those were the words of Houston Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone shortly after the trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. As of now, Stone’s perspective on the Rockets’ situation seems unchanged. After all, the weeks leading up to the trade deadline are riddled with rumors from unnamed sources.
But no such whispers have been leaked from the Rockets’ camp, and when asked about the future of players that could be on the trade block like Victor Oladipo, P.J. Tucker, and Eric Gordon, NBA insiders seem to get the sense that nothing is set in stone.
The idea of the Rockets looking to clean house does make some sense. After all, since Christian Wood has been sidelined with an ankle injury the Rockets have had to weather a seven-game losing streak. As their chances at the play-in tournament continue to slip away, the Rockets will certainly have to make some serious decisions.
It’s never easy to move on. Both fans and front office executives want to believe that the in-house talent of a team has what it takes to play winning basketball. However, if Stone wants to set the Rockets up for long-term success, moving multiple players. at the deadline may be the best way to do so.
Looking around the league, the number of teams actually looking to be sellers is relatively thin. Aside from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Detroit Pistons, the Rockets are the only other team that could truly fit the description.
With that in mind, Stone has an opportunity to use the high demand for impact players to his advantage. Perhaps he could recoup positive value for players that, in a typical market, would not yield such a result.
However Stone chooses to navigate the trade deadline, one thing is clear; if his phone line is open, there will be no shortage of callers. So why is it that Stone seems hellbent on testing the waters before having a full-on fire sale?
Regardless of Stone’s ultimate decision, the way the Rockets handle this year’s trade deadline will set the tone for how things will be done in the post-Harden era. And if he should choose to be a seller at the trade deadline, there are three players in particular that will most likely be on the move.
Next: Player #3