Houston Rockets: Does Rafael Stone deserve to stick around?
Gaging Rafael Stone’s first year as Houston Rockets’ general manager was tough. In many respects, Stone was thrust into an impossible situation as the first mate suddenly made captain of a sinking ship.
How Rafael Stone managed the Houston Rockets’ crisis
Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ previous general manager, might have steered the franchise to incredible success over his 13-year tenure but he did not leave the franchise’s future in a good position. Due to justified win-now trades, the Rockets hadn’t selected a player in the first round of the NBA draft since 2015, which left the franchise with little to no young talent.
However, the move that really spelled doom for the Rockets was their trade for Russell Westbrook. Regardless of your opinion of Westbrook, the trade that sent him to Houston was one of the worst trades in NBA history.
The Rockets sent Chris Paul, their 2024 and 2026 first-round picks, and first-round pick swaps for their 2021 and 2025 picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook. Paul has been objectively better than Westbrook over the past two seasons, which means the Rockets gave up the better player and a ton of picks.
Stone was always going to have to play catch up and that was before both Westbrook and James Harden demanded trades. Add it all up and Stone inherited a team with no young up-and-coming players, little draft capital and cap space, and two superstars with one foot out of the door.
Stone did the best he could when trading Harden and Westbrook, but in reality, his hands were tied. Westbrook had little trade value around the league due to his massive contract and the only thing the Rockets were able to get in return for him was an equally bad contract in the form of John Wall and a highly protected future first-round pick.
The James Harden trade has been maligned by some but the Rockets did land an unprecedented amount of unprotected draft capital. While some might bemoan Stone for not landing a young franchise centerpiece in the deal, the draft haul he got from Brooklyn has more merit upon further inspection.
Remember, the Rockets’ future drafts are largely in the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. By landing all of Brooklyn’s picks outright or through swaps the Rockets at the very least guarantee that they’ll have some future first-round picks to work with. It wasn’t a slam dunk deal but it was a prudent move to protect the future of the franchise and was largely the result of bad decisions made by his former boss.
Next: How Rafael Stone built for the future