Report of tension between James Harden and Chris Paul comes on the heels of their Houston Rockets losing in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Said loss was especially devastating in that it came against the Golden State Warriors with Kevin Durant sidelined for the final game to injury.
All the while, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has indicated he’d like to coach two or three more seasons. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
On the court, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey could look to reshape the roster in a big way. Here’s how this might play out.
No draft capital: Houston is without a pick.
- This could ultimately hurt the Rockets’ chances of pulling off a blockbuster trade. While Morey has noted that they have their full complement of picks beyond 2019, that’s not going to help in June.
- From a pure roster standpoint, this will also hurt the Rockets as they attempt to get younger.
- This means Houston will again be relying on aging veterans who have been tapped out for some time.
The Chris Paul dynamic: He might not be a tradable asset.
- At 34 years old, Paul is well past his prime. He averaged just 16.7 points and less than six assists during Houston’s six-game series loss to Golden State.
- Paul is set to count north of $124 million against the cap over the next three seasons. That includes a $40-plus million cap hit in each of the final two years.
- Could the Rockets find a team dumb enough to take on this contract when it’s apparent that Paul is in the back end of his career?
There might be one: Despite his contract, Paul might already be drawing interest.
- Reports out of the desert indicate that the Phoenix Suns could be interested in adding a veteran point guard of Paul’s ilk.
- Phoenix has long been in the market for someone to team up with star shooting guard Devin Booker.
- The Suns currently have nearly $25 million in cap room to work with. This makes is possible to pull off a trade.
The trade: How it might look?
- Phoenix would send the expiring contract of Tyler Johnson ($19.25 million) and talented small forward T.J. Warren to Houston in order to make the money work.
- From there, Houston might ask for former No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson and draft pick compensation.
- It would unlikely be the Suns’ first-round pick (sixth overall). Instead, maybe the team’s second-round selection (32nd overall).
Now that Paul is gone: This trade would force Houston to look for a point guard.
- There’s options here. Houston could potentially use its mid-level exception on a stop-gap option at the point.
- Names in that category include Rajon Rondo, Ricky Rubio, Patrick Beverley and Derrick Rose.
- All four of these players would be better fits with Harden in the back court than Paul. They are not ball-dominant guards.
Rounding it out: How the rest might look.
- Flush with perimeter players such as Tyler Johnson, Josh Johnson and the unnamed veteran point guard, the Rockets would have the luxury to potentially trade Eric Gordon.
- He’s a tremendous asset in that the 30-year-old guard is still playing at a high level and is set to count just $14 million against the cap next season.
- This would help the Rockets net a starting power forward to go with Clint Capela and Josh Jackson in the front court.
- Pure hypothetical here, but the Lakers could make for a solid trade partner with stretch forward Kyle Kuzma being used as bait.
It’s rather clear that the current version of these Rockets can’t compete with Golden State out west. They couldn’t even come out on top in a win or go home Game 6 without Durant in the mix.
It’s time for Houston to change things up. What we listed above were simply ideas. Morey is one of the best general managers in the game. He’ll do what’s needed to improve the Rockets behind soon-to-be two-time MVP James Harden.