Should the Houston Rockets "run it back" in 2024-25?

Could the Houston Rockets trade one of their young stars this summer?
Could the Houston Rockets trade one of their young stars this summer? / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

Here at SpaceCityScoop, we write about the Houston Rockets. Allow us to pivot briefly. Let's talk about the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans.

In 2019, those two teams made a mammoth of a trade. The Lakers sent Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks to the Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis. How does the deal look in hindsight?

To our eye, it looks like a win/win move. The Pelicans lost Ball in free agency, but unfortunately, injuries have limited his effectiveness anyway. They leveraged Hart to trade for CJ McCollum. Ingram is still a vital cog in what looks like a young team with tremendous potential.

Meanwhile, the Lakers won an NBA title behind the combined powers of Davis and LeBron James. Sure, they've been floundering since. The title justifies itself.

Some Lakers fans will disagree. They'll say they could have found more sustainable success by hanging onto their young pieces. Sure, the Lakers sold their souls. Here's the thing about souls: they have tremendous market value.

Should the Rockets sell theirs?

Should the Houston Rockets make a blockbuster trade?

Well, there's no LeBron James in Houston. If they made an all-in push for a superstar, they'd be a meaningful step behind where the Lakers were in 2019. They'd be trading for their James first.

In a manner of speaking, that is. A LeBron James won't be on the trade market. Still, the Rockets theoretically have the ammunition to trade for a franchise-altering talent like ZIon Williamson, Giannis Antetokoumpo, or (to a lesser extent) Donovan Mitchell if they shook loose.

Let's talk turkey (or, Turkey). Suppose the Rockets traded Alperen Sengun*, Amen Thompson, Dillon Brooks, Jock Landale, and draft capital for Williamson. They're left with a core group of Williamson, Fred VanVleet, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., and Tari Eason.

*We're including Sengun because he'd presumably have the most trade value. Also, it's a hypothetical. Also, we're going to say we don't want to do it. Relax.

Is that a championship-level team? Decidedly not. Still, with a healthy WIlliamson, it should be a 45-win squad. The Rockets would be in a position where they could attract more star-caliber talent via free agency. They could even trade for another star with their remaining young players and the control of their own draft they'll regain in a couple of seasons.

Is that the move?

The Houston Rockets should run it back

No. Emphatically, and definitively, no.

In theory, the plan works. In practice, Williamson gets injured. Antetokoumnpo ages out of his prime. Mitchell doesn't move the needle to the extent that you'd like.

Suddenly, the Rockets are left in the rain without a jacket. They'll have given up the bulk of their assets for a mediocre team that might make a Conference Finals run.

That's not to say they shouldn't ever consolidate some of these guys. There's striking while the iron is hot, and then there's striking the hot iron with your bare hands. It's too early in the process for the Rockets to make a rash decision.

Sure, they don't have a clearcut franchise player on the books. That's fine. There's still time for one to emerge from this group.

If that happens? The Rockets are cruising on easy street. Now, you've got your James -and the assets to trade for your Davis.

Give this group a couple more years. If Sengun doesn't improve his shooting and/or defense, or Thompson doesn't look like a primary playmaker, or Green can't string together two consecutive good months, you reevaluate. By then, you're desperate enough to trade for a superstar - and that route will still be available.

Luckily, it seems that the front office concurs.

Houston Rockets saying the right things

"The guys we have in the locker room today, we’re excited to bring back. We’ll look at things but again, I don’t view our roster as we’re missing X, we need to go find it."

Rafael Stone

We couldn't agree more. Stone isn't GMing for his job, and it shows.

The Rockets will have a healthy Tari Eason back in 2024-25. They'll be adding Steven Adams to the mix. They also have a lottery pick coming from the Brooklyn Nets.

There are some marginal moves to make. The Rockets need to add shooting. They could select a floor spacer with that pick. Alternatively, they could draft for upside and look to flip some combination of Jae'Sean Tate and Jock Landale (along with a second-round pick or two) for a shooting specialist.

Otherwise, they'd be wise to hold serve. The Rockets exceeded expectations in 2023-24. With a roster as young as this one, they can bank on internal growth. In other words, this team is still searching for their own LeBron James:

Or at the very least, their own Zion Williamson.