The Houston Rockets have tried and failed two years in a row to topple the dynasty in Golden State. While it’s admirable to remain competitive instead of deciding to punt on the present for the future like most teams when faced with the Warriors, it’s put the team in a tricky situation. With James Harden and Chris Paul signed to max contracts and a high price tag for Clint Capela, they don’t have much room to improve.
GM Daryl Morey, however, is a wizard when it comes to these sorts of things. He’s pulled off the Harden and Paul trades, and is widely considered one of the best in the business. If anyone could pull off an unforeseen deal, it’s him. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Morey has been making calls since his team’s latest playoff exit, and everything is on the table.
Saying it’s hard to imagine a Harden trade is the understatement of the year, but Paul and Capela? That’s a different story. Paul can still contribute to a winning team, but his list of injuries runs long and there were reports of conflict within the locker room after the season ended. Paul was at the center of it, of course. He’s an all-time great player, but his reputation for rubbing his teammates the wrong way has followed him since he left New Orleans. Capela, meanwhile, is a good young player, but not a difference-maker for a championship squad at this point in his career. Marc Stein confirmed the Rockets have gauged his trade value in recent trade talks.
Morey would be hard-pressed to find a partner to take on Paul, who will be making over $30 million a year as he moves into his mid-30s. But it’s believable that everyone is on the table other than Harden. He’s an offensive system by himself, and Morey will continue to build his team around him. The Rockets dumping more first-round picks will continue to haunt them, but Morey likely recognizes his best chance to win a chip with Harden as the centerpiece will come next season, operating under the assumption Kevin Durant will leave Golden State.
Morey will get creative to give his team the best chance, and no stone will be left unturned. It will be fascinating to see how he goes about the next stage of team-building when many considered Houston in limbo as a result of Paul’s contract. If he can find a home for Paul, the possibilities are endless.