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2023 Houston Rockets Offseason Thread - Time to Start Thinking About Winning Again


BigOrange1

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Ever since the team traded away James Harden in early 2021, the primary goal of the organization has been to lose as much as possible in order to bottom out and add high end talent via the top of the draft.  That process ended with a whimper this afternoon as the rockets won their third consecutive game and finished tied with the Spurs for the second-worst record.  This means that their own pick in the upcoming draft could fall anywhere between 1-7 (for the time being, there is a possibility they win a coin flip with the Spurs and the worst-case scenario is pick #6).  Either way, for the third straight year lottery night (May 16th) is going to be the most significant evening of the offseason for Rockets fans.

In addition to their own pick, the Rockets will also have the Clippers' first round pick which will fall somewhere between #18-#20 (i'm pretty sure it will be determined via a coin flip between the Clippers, Warriors, and Heat (assuming they win 1 play-in game and make the playoffs).  They got this pick by trading Eric Gordon and Milwaukee's first round pick (which ended up being #30) in exchange.  This turned out to be a very good trade for the Rockets IMO, and had the potential to be a great trade should the Clippers miss the playoffs, which was on the table all the way up to the last day of the regular season.  

Outside of the draft, the Rockets have a ton of cap room and should be able to bring in multiple impactful free agents.  #1 on that list just so happens to be a potential reunion with our old pal James Harden.  The rumors are so loud that this could happen that I'm not even sure that it really matters how Philly's season ends, though if it ends in the second round or earlier, I think the likelihood of it happening are fairly strong.  Harden isn't the player he was back when he left Houston, but he is still a fantastic offensive facilitator who would be a God-send for a young team that has no identity.  And since the Rockets aren't in control of their draft pick next year (thanks Westbrook trade!), there is no reason not to try and be at least "good" next year.  Aside from Harden, the list of Unrestricted Free Agents isn't anything to write home about, but due to the Rockets' vast amount of cap space, I'm wondering if it may be wise to be very aggressive in Restricted Free Agency?  To that end, I really like both Cam Johnson and PJ Washington and think they both make some sense.  There is also always the possibility of trading for a highly-paid star player who is unhappy in his current situation with some of the cap space.  No matter how it shakes out, for the first time since the Harden trade, the Rockets should be a major player in free agency.

They are also going to get to hire a new coach as Stephen Silas was finally let go today.  Names that have been mentioned as possible candidates include Nick Nurse, Ime Udoka, Kenny Atkinson, and Scott Brooks.  I'm fine with any of them though I do prefer the first two options the most.  

So here we are.  The bottoming out era is over and the Rockets have a lot of important decisions to make before the 2023-24 season tips off in October.  It will be a very eventful summer.  Here's hoping it is a fun and fruitful summer and the Rockets are a much-improved team next season.

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So if Harden comes back, the Rockets would almost certainly trade Porter right? 
 

I do worry he’ll revert back to a ball dominant shooting guard, get fatter and start a de facto retirement tour on a bad contract. But the upside is there. He’s certainly the best point guard available. 
 

Feels a like a play in team with the additions of Harden, and Victor or Miller. 
 

Hopefully our 2024 pick sucks to stick it to Presti. 

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Porter is nearly untradeable because of his contract, he has some crazy poison pill attached to trades, but at the same time it's not fully guaranteed, so the Rockets could release him. Besides he is not talented enough for other teams to take a chance on his attitude issues.

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Yes, the Rockets have Brooklyn's 24 and 26 unprotected against ours #1-4 protected during the same years. Also, we have the 2025 pick swap, #1-10 protected. It's written weird, but if it somehow ended up that Brooklyn had the #1 pick in 2025, and the Rockets had #11 or worse, then OKC would get the #1 pick, and we'd be stuck with the best pick avaialble between us and OKC, but if our pick was at #10 or better, then we would get the #1 pick and OKC would not get to swap at all. 

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Signing Harden to a max deal seems more likely to destroy whatever they’ve done than to become a team that competes for championships. If he came back, it signals he values living here/strip clubs more than winning. He’s not nearly as good as he used to be, is 4 years older, and initiated the divorce by pouting in a fat suit when all the trades he forced turned out to be fails. Is it possible he morphs into Obiwan Kenobi and guides the young stars? I guess, but better odds he tries to be ball dominant and Green, Smith, Sengun, and 2023 pick stand around and wait to see if James ever passes them the ball. Also James introduces the young stars to that Treasures life and Sengun gets shanked by a pimp. 

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1 hour ago, Murfdogg21 said:

Signing Harden to a max deal seems more likely to destroy whatever they’ve done than to become a team that competes for championships. If he came back, it signals he values living here/strip clubs more than winning. He’s not nearly as good as he used to be, is 4 years older, and initiated the divorce by pouting in a fat suit when all the trades he forced turned out to be fails. Is it possible he morphs into Obiwan Kenobi and guides the young stars? I guess, but better odds he tries to be ball dominant and Green, Smith, Sengun, and 2023 pick stand around and wait to see if James ever passes them the ball. Also James introduces the young stars to that Treasures life and Sengun gets shanked by a pimp. 

I agree that signing Harden likely doesn't help the team (pending where this year's pick ends up) but what exactly have they done to become a team that competes for championships? They've embraced shitty coaching, lack of structure, no winning culture, etc., for the last two years. I'm not sure what exactly you think there is to damage.

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I might be the only one who feels this way, but I don't want Harden back. Why go back down that road? Especially with him being older. You know what he is and what he isn't. And what he isn't is the type of guy who will lead the locker room. Unless it's to the club.

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54 minutes ago, Brothahorn said:

I might be the only one who feels this way, but I don't want Harden back. Why go back down that road? Especially with him being older. You know what he is and what he isn't. And what he isn't is the type of guy who will lead the locker room. Unless it's to the club.

Because Harden is still a Top 10 player in the NBA and you would be surrounding him with a much younger and more athletic supporting cast. Green would likely be the 2nd best player Harden will have played with the Rockets. Besides, the Rockets would still have cap room to sign another star, and let's be honest, no vets are coming to this team without an established star already on the roster. It might not work out, but the Rockets need to make the playoffs next year.

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On 4/9/2023 at 10:44 PM, billfromlaketravis said:

So if Harden comes back, the Rockets would almost certainly trade Porter right? 
 

I do worry he’ll revert back to a ball dominant shooting guard, get fatter and start a de facto retirement tour on a bad contract. But the upside is there. He’s certainly the best point guard available. 
 

Feels a like a play in team with the additions of Harden, and Victor or Miller. 
 

Hopefully our 2024 pick sucks to stick it to Presti. 

This seems so pessimistically low to me.  If they win the lotto and get Vic the dick and sign Harden there is no way they aren't also going to hit up another couple free agents. Personally, I would go hard after Bridges (give the Nets all their draft assets back plus some other of my draft assets in the future as well) and try to make a team like this:  

Harden, Green, Bridges, Smith, Sengun with Vic and whatever you can get for Porter the rest of the cap space as veteran FA types or trade pieces.  That seems like a 50 win type team to me.

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2 hours ago, HtownHorn said:

Because Harden is still a Top 10 player in the NBA and you would be surrounding him with a much younger and more athletic supporting cast. Green would likely be the 2nd best player Harden will have played with the Rockets. Besides, the Rockets would still have cap room to sign another star, and let's be honest, no vets are coming to this team without an established star already on the roster. It might not work out, but the Rockets need to make the playoffs next year.

Well said.  Look at the FA market. Signing Harden is the least bad option out there for what to do with the money- and it's possible if the guys develop and the lotto gods bless us with Vic that we could win a title in the next 4 years on that contract as a bridge to turning the team over to whatever Smith, Green, Sengun and whoever the pick this year becomes.  

Odds of winning a title are always low anyway, this way seems more likely than any other to get us there. 

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3 hours ago, HtownHorn said:

Because Harden is still a Top 10 player in the NBA .


He missed 24 games this season, and you would be putting him back in Houston where he expects to skip practice for day trips to Cabo and hits up the strip clubs when he stays home.  

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Lulz at thinking not acquiring star basketball players will work out for the Rockets when they want to come to Houston. If you want to win and make the playoffs you sign Harden. If you want to wander the desert for another decade you keep doing what you are doing.

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48 minutes ago, Rockethorn1978 said:

Given our owner I’m not sure why anyone will think the Rockets will make the right HC decision. 

I’m as anti Ferntits as they come around here but ever since throwing his fit and trading away CP3 when he wasn’t done and grossly giving up assets to do it I’d say he’s played this out how he should. 

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17 minutes ago, Wulaw Horn said:

I’m as anti Ferntits as they come around here but ever since throwing his fit and trading away CP3 when he wasn’t done and grossly giving up assets to do it I’d say he’s played this out how he should. 

Yea I’m talking about knowing how to hire the right coach. Our gm hire sucked so not sure why anyone has confidence he will get this one right. 

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14 hours ago, Brothahorn said:

I might be the only one who feels this way, but I don't want Harden back. Why go back down that road? Especially with him being older. You know what he is and what he isn't. And what he isn't is the type of guy who will lead the locker room. Unless it's to the club.

right there with you. terrible move IMO. yeah, no help at all in the leadership department and takes the ball out of your young guys hands

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9 hours ago, staboner said:

right there with you. terrible move IMO. yeah, no help at all in the leadership department and takes the ball out of your young guys hands

the big issue with the young guys (meaning green and smith) is that they need someone who can get them the ball in good spots.  pg is probably the #1 overall on the court need for the team.  wtf are you talking about with "taking the ball out of your young guys hands"

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also, for the sake of the clippers pick still falling as high as it possibly can (#18), we need miami to win on friday.  if they lose, they'll be in the lottery and the clippers pick will either be #19 or 20 (depending on the results of a coin flip with the warriors).

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Missing on #1 would hurt, but the difference between #2 and #3 isn’t as big a deal (Scoot vs Miller) as it was assumed a couple months ago. Anything else sucks after the 3 years of tanking. 
 

1 hour ago, BigOrange1 said:

the big issue with the young guys (meaning green and smith) is that they need someone who can get them the ball in good spots.  pg is probably the #1 overall on the court need for the team.  wtf are you talking about with "taking the ball out of your young guys hands"

Yes, getting a veteran PG should have the most impact on youth development and wins next season. Drafting Scoot would be nice, but still probably need a free agent PG.

”wtf are we talking about” is HtownHorn’s giant boner for signing Harden who will go into pre-retirement mode of getting fat and stripper life, while on the court he’ll chuck up shots like when he was playing Morey ball here. Harden is likely the “best” free agent Houston could sign, but almost certainly not best ROI on a new contract and could delay development of the young players we tanked to get. 

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Delaying the development. Holy shit. You guys are great. Now you are fucking worried about development.

This is silly. every GM in the NBA would take Harden on their team if given the current Houston roster and tanking is no longer an option. You'd be replacing one of the worst players on the team with one of the best in the NBA.

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On 4/12/2023 at 10:09 AM, BigOrange1 said:

the big issue with the young guys (meaning green and smith) is that they need someone who can get them the ball in good spots.  pg is probably the #1 overall on the court need for the team.  wtf are you talking about with "taking the ball out of your young guys hands"

This. JH’s attempts per game this year were his lowest since he was in OKC…

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Thought experiment- we win the lotto and Cuban calls up and says- this finding a second star for Luka isn’t working. I don’t want to give Kyrie a contract. I can’t see a path to winning a title with him. I will trade you Luka for Vic the dick. 
who says no?  
 

my thought is your top 10 trade value in the NBA would be something like (ranked in order):

Giannis, Joker, Embiid, Vic, Luka, Tatum, Steph, Booker, KD, SGA. 
 

Is that the top 10?  Who did I miss?  What order did I mangle? 

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My hot take is Green and Smith aren’t actually that promising - at least not as much as you’d like from your top 3 draft pick centerpieces of a multi year tanking campaign. So, no, it’s actually not time to win again, unless Houston gets the top pick and Victor.   This doesn’t feel like when OKC sucked but had 2nd year Durant and rookie Westbrook plus another high pick coming.  It feels more like they suck, and their two franchise cornerstones have the upside of (a) inefficient leading scorer for a bad team, and (b) complementary 3 and D guy who shoots it ok for a big man.  I don’t see parades in the future.

I wouldn’t sign Harden because he’s fading and I don’t think the losing is over any time soon with this core.  I guess there’s an argument to be made that you’ve got to stop being so horrible for the fans at some point, so sign Harden and fight for that 8 seed or whatever.  But meh.  

Of course, that all changes if they get Victor.  If that happens, they should sign whoever and try to get older to win now before he inevitably gets hurt like every other guy that tall other than Kareem.  I’d even trade Green and Smith for veterans in that scenario.  You don’t build for 6 years from now with a guy whose legs are probably on borrowed time and who is already a 7’3” Kevin Durant / Anthony Davis hybrid freak.

Edited by longhornmatt
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1 hour ago, HtownHorn said:

So, you want to wander the desert like Sacramento, 16 years without a playoff game. That is a great strategy, as is tanking when you don't control your 1st round pick.

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They wouldn’t be signing Harden to a one year deal, so it’s not like next year’s draft pick is the only consideration in the “are we still tanking or are we signing Harden and other free agents to win” decision.  That’s not a 1 year decision.

And sticking your head into the sand while you pretend things are better than they are is how you wander the desert for 16 years without a playoff game.  Sacramento has had plenty of Jalen Greens and Jabari Smiths.

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1 hour ago, longhornmatt said:

My hot take is Green and Smith aren’t actually that promising - at least not as much as you’d like from your top 3 draft pick centerpieces of a multi year tanking campaign. So, no, it’s actually not time to win again, unless Houston gets the top pick and Victor.   This doesn’t feel like when OKC sucked but had 2nd year Durant and rookie Westbrook plus another high pick coming.  It feels more like they suck, and their two franchise cornerstones have the upside of (a) inefficient leading scorer for a bad team, and (b) complementary 3 and D guy who shoots it ok for a big man.  I don’t see parades in the future.

I wouldn’t sign Harden because he’s fading and I don’t think the losing is over any time soon with this core.  I guess there’s an argument to be made that you’ve got to stop being so horrible for the fans at some point, so sign Harden and fight for that 8 seed or whatever.  But meh.  

Of course, that all changes if they get Victor.  If that happens, they should sign whoever and try to get older to win now before he inevitably gets hurt like every other guy that tall other than Kareem.  I’d even trade Green and Smith for veterans in that scenario.  You don’t build for 6 years from now with a guy whose legs are probably on borrowed time and who is already a 7’3” Kevin Durant / Anthony Davis hybrid freak.

I don’t think the green Smith thing is even a hot take man. 
Eason and Sengun are pretty good rotation type players. Green and Smith are obviously rotation quality players if not stars. That gives you 4 of a necessary 8. You need a star, a secondary guy and 2 more rotation pieces. You have 70M more or less so that’s enough to get a star (Harden still counts) and 2 more rotation pieces. If you get Wemby I’d agree- trade green and or Smith for a legit all star, sign Harden, sign 2 other good middle class players and hope for the best. 
I’d trade Wemby for:

Luka, Joker, Embiid, Tatum, Giannis, and Steph. I think every one of those teams would at least have a meeting about it (except maybe Milwaukee) before probably not pulling the trigger. 
I’d trade Scoot in a heartbeat and sign Harden. If it was 2 or 3 I’d push really hard for Bridges. Bridges and Harden with what we have on hand is better than play in team I think. And you have to be better than play in losing 24 and 26 draft picks if at all possible. 

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But they never had a Harden. The NBA is a star driven league, and he's still a star, and while Green may not be a franchise corner stone, he'd be the 2nd best player Harden ever had in Houston behind the 1 year he spent with Paul. I also imagine Green and Smith would be shit tons better with Harden being the PG over fucking Porter. 

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3 minutes ago, Wulaw Horn said:

I don’t think the green Smith thing is even a hot take man. 
Eason and Sengun are pretty good rotation type players. Green and Smith are obviously rotation quality players if not stars. That gives you 4 of a necessary 8. You need a star, a secondary guy and 2 more rotation pieces. You have 70M more or less so that’s enough to get a star (Harden still counts) and 2 more rotation pieces. If you get Wemby I’d agree- trade green and or Smith for a legit all star, sign Harden, sign 2 other good middle class players and hope for the best. 
I’d trade Wemby for:

Luka, Joker, Embiid, Tatum, Giannis, and Steph. I think every one of those teams would at least have a meeting about it (except maybe Milwaukee) before probably not pulling the trigger. 
I’d trade Scoot in a heartbeat and sign Harden. If it was 2 or 3 I’d push really hard for Bridges. Bridges and Harden with what we have on hand is better than play in team I think. And you have to be better than play in losing 24 and 26 draft picks if at all possible. 

Luka, are you fucking crazy. Luka just led his team from the WCF to out of the fucking playoffs. He's not a #1. As much shit as Harden takes, he never missed the playoffs in Houston. You would kill the team with Luka, and no other star is signing to play with him.

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2 minutes ago, HtownHorn said:

Luka, are you fucking crazy. Luka just led his team from the WCF to out of the fucking playoffs. He's not a #1. As much shit as Harden takes, he never missed the playoffs in Houston. You would kill the team with Luka, and no other star is signing to play with him.

Lukas pretty ducking good man. And you have Sengun, Smith, Green and Eason around him. Plus  35M or so to spend. That’s a solid 8 man rotation. 

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i wouldn't trade vic for luka and i'm still pretty high on luka.  

and i'd like to see green and smith play for a competent coach and alongside a true pg before making any determinations on them.  green has shown enough in flashes to make me think he could one day be an elite scorer (like top 5 in the nba) and smith finished well enough for me to see a potential future for him where he's like the second best player on a title contender.  that's probably the ceiling for both green and smith, 2nd best player on a title contending team.  if they both hit that, its a solid long-term nucleus.  

and it's time to start winning because there is no longer any downside to losing.  in this context, "winning" doesn't mean contending for championships, it just means at least being average.

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17 minutes ago, BigOrange1 said:

i wouldn't trade vic for luka and i'm still pretty high on luka.  

and i'd like to see green and smith play for a competent coach and alongside a true pg before making any determinations on them.  green has shown enough in flashes to make me think he could one day be an elite scorer (like top 5 in the nba) and smith finished well enough for me to see a potential future for him where he's like the second best player on a title contender.  that's probably the ceiling for both green and smith, 2nd best player on a title contending team.  if they both hit that, its a solid long-term nucleus.  

and it's time to start winning because there is no longer any downside to losing.  in this context, "winning" doesn't mean contending for championships, it just means at least being average.

Only reason I would do Luka for Vic is the 50/50 chance Vic’s feet fall off like most really fucking tall guys by the time he’s 25 or 27. 

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Weird that people are down on Jabari Smith. He was easily top 5-8 of the rookie class and is still very young. Potential top 20-25 player in the league if development matches potential over the next 3-5 years.

I understand the disappointment in Green but feel like he was hamstrung by the coaching and situation. Still a natural elite scorer who could be a solid contributor on a deep playoff team. Rockets are not entirely short of talent anymore. It's just all young and needs 2-3 years together.

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