Why Rockets GM Rafael Stone deserves scrutiny over the deal
Although the Rockets lost out on Lopez, as I stated earlier; this happens. Players change their mind at the ninth hour.
None of these deals are official until the moratorium is lifted at 12:01 PM Eastern on July 6th. This means even if we saw the proverbial tweet from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski or The Athletic's Shams Charania stating that both parties had reached an agreement, it wouldn't even have been official then.
The Rockets should have had a back-up plan identified for Lopez, and it was abundantly clear that they didn't. They tried pivoting to Dwight Powell at the ninth hour but by then it was too late. They didn't have the necessary time to negotiate with him and he was already on his way back to the Dallas Mavericks (where he re-signed).
Because they didn't think they'd have to. Which is only part of the problem.
The main issue is that Stone didn't have to go through with the deal. The Rockets could have told the Hawks that the trade was contingent on Lopez signing in Houston.
That way the Hawks would've known up front that there was a possibility that the deal wouldn't go through and there wouldn't have been any risk of jeopardizing their relationship because it would have been established on the front end. And Stone isn't a rookie GM, after all.
He's heading into his fourth year on the job. There were many alternatives to the final outcome and solution he chose.
Again, losing players who were long shots to become anything of use for a competitive team isn't so much an issue. Not having any semblance of a back-up plan is the greater issue.
And forcing yourself to walk away empty-handed surely wasn't Stone's goal. Even he wouldn't do this again this way, if he was given a do-over.
Hopefully he's learned from all of this.