Weekly Rockets Rundown

Westbrook, Rockets Ranks, and more

Rockets.com

Welcome to the Rockets Rundown. It's the offseason, and I've been on a bit of a hiatus, but I'm back to give a weekly recap of everything Rockets related until tip off next season. There's plenty to get to, so let's have at it.

Westbrook rumblings

Now that MVP candidate Paul George has (understandably) changed landscapes from the open plains of Oklahoma to the sunny beaches of California, Russell Westbrook is left holding the check with the Thunder. With all signs pointing to a rebuild mode in OKC, Westbrook appears all but gone.

Of course when a superstar is involved in trade rumblings, so to is Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey. It was no surprise then that when the prospect of Westbrook being made available became known, murmurs of the Rockets' interest also crept through the pipeline.

Could the Rockets trade for Westbrook? It's possible. As built, Houston isn't exactly resplendent with trade chips. They're not devoid however, either. It would probably take some serious multi-team calculus of a trade to make it work, but it could. Should you expect it? Not really.

Now if it did happen? Well that's something you'd want for sure. Everyone said James Harden and Chris Paul wouldn't work, and then they ripped off a league-best 65 wins. I'd be more than happy to watch that experiment unfold, if anything to prove that the Rockets can, in fact, become even more dramatic and petty than their current iteration.

Where the Rockets stand

The Warriors are a shell of themselves, the Lakers got their guy in Anthony Davis, and the Clippers defense got extra salty. Meanwhile, the Rockets resigned their guys. Nothing flashy.

So where should they rank headed into next season?

If your answer was top three, you'd be close.

If predictive analytics are your jam, the guys over at fivethirtyeight.com have the Rockets number one in the west next season, and second overall to a 76ers team that looks to benefit from some addition by subtraction.

If you're looking for a more grounded reasoning for optimism, remember that the only team that has won more games in the last three years than the Rockets (174) is the Warriors (182). The Rockets lost none of their starters, and kept every meaningful bench piece. Sometimes being boring is a good thing. We'll find out this fall.

More offseason rumblings

  • It looks like a reunion between Chris Paul and center Tyson Chandler is looking more and more likely, as the Rockets have reportedly targeted the former defensive player of the year as a backup big man.
  • It's not quite the award Harden was aiming for, but the NBA Players Association announced on Tuesday that The Beard was voted "Toughest to Guard" for the 2018-2019 season. P.J. Tucker also took home hardware as the 2019 Sneaker Champ, because that is a thing that players vote on apparently.
  • Former Rockets assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik--widely credited with the Rockets defensive turnaround the past two seasons--looks to be close to finding a new home with the New Orleans Pelicans. Bzdelik was let go at the end of the season.

Not Rockets related at all

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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.


Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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