Houston Rockets uncomfortable conversation #3: The rebuild needs to start now
The Houston Rockets need to commit to a full-on rebuild. After years of contention that saw the franchise send out draft picks for immediate help the Rockets’ current roster is old and unproductive.
The price of continuous contention is expensive and the Rockets paid the sticker price for years. In the end, the franchise’s decision to keep pushing their chips in was worth it as they made the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons and two Western Conference Finals.
After such a prolonged period of mortgaging the future, the chickens have come to roost. The Rockets don’t have a young consortium of players ready to take over the franchise and they don’t control all of their upcoming draft picks.
The Russell Westbrook trade from the summer of 2019 has the potential to be one of the most disastrous trades in the history of the franchise. The deal saw the Rockets send Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with top-four protected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025.
The position that this puts the Rockets in is precarious because they can’t simply bottom out and count on their draft picks saving the day. The only way out of this asset hell is to go out and collect other teams’ first-round picks and hope the stars align.
The Rockets have already started this process with the James Harden trade to the Brooklyn Nets that saw them land three unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026 and pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027. The James Harden trade, in reality, was an insurance policy to protect the franchise from the fallout of the Russell Westbrook trade.
The Harden trade, in essence, guarantees that the Rockets will have a first-round pick in 2021, 2024, 2025, and 2026 but it won’t guarantee the franchise will be able to select multiple players in the first-round on a consistent basis. What this means is that the Rockets will need to continue to ship out players for more first-round picks.
The Rockets need to start their rebuild in earnest and every player on their roster with a modicum of trade value needs to be sold off to the highest bidder. The James Harden trade didn’t start the rebuild, it just prevented the worst-case scenario. The players that are moved now will be part of the rebuild and it needs to start sooner rather than later.
Next: Uncomfortable Conversation #2