THE Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: Rockets are forced into an "all-in" scenario

Bringing back Chris Paul means the window is now. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

So now what? Is it time to make wide-ranging changes or is it time to sit tight? Figuring out where the Rockets go from here can be tricky unless you really think things through. Well hang on… Daryl Morey is responsible for building this team, not us. Morey crafts team building plans two years in advance so I guess you and I trying to figure things out is irrelevant.

But I’m still going to get my two cents in.

Before we talk about Lebron James or any other “solutions” to the Golden State problem, we have to figure out where the Rockets stand in the grand scheme of winning a title. The “Clutch City” Rockets obviously had great success, but they believed a changing of the roster was necessary to beat Seattle. They added Charles Barkley to the mix, but sprung a leak against the Utah Jazz and the Rockets run ended in quick death thanks, in part, due to Barkley’s inability to get in shape and stay healthy. Plus they just got hella old.

Before you make any moves at all, you have to have an honest accounting of where you stand as an organization. Let’s delve.

Window shopping

The Philadelphia 76’ers and Boston Celtics are built for long-term runs since their teams are built through the draft. All their best players are still young and they have roster flexibility where they can deal talented, young players for quality veterans whenever they need.

The Rockets don’t have that same luxury. The Rockets “window” is very fluid. If we acknowledge there was a better than average chance that Chris Paul may have helped right the ship in the third and/or fourth quarters of games 6 or 7, then the Rockets would have found themselves in the Finals.

But do you just hang your hat on that knowledge and keep rolling? Yes and no.

Re-signing Chris Paul is a must thanks to his ability to control the offense when needed, find points with mid-range jumpers when the 3-pointers are clanking, and provide the leadership and mental toughness this team needed.

But once you lock in with Paul, you better realize that your window for a title is very small. For as much as we love Paul, he played in just 58 games, which is the second lowest of his career. He began the season with a soft-tissue injury and ended the season with a soft-tissue injury. He’s talented but older players don’t get more healthy, only less healthy.

Once Paul is re-signed, Morey must realize that the window for winning is much tighter and will require a roster being built around the understanding that Paul is likely going to miss several games. Some of the games Paul misses could be in the playoffs. Because of this, the pursuit and recruitment of another high-end talent like Lebron James will go into overdrive.

Re-signing Paul and Clint Capela along with allowing guys like Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza to walk will still creates a status-quo situation unless the Rockets find a significantly better scorer and creator. Finding better point guard depth is a must now as well. I’m not big into small windows for success, but as long as you are going to rely on Chris Paul in 2018-2019, the Rockets have to go all-in.

 

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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