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

Stranger Things 3 was awesome. And so was Spider-Man.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Wednesday's already back again and that means it's time for another recap for all things Rockets.

Westbrook reunion

It was about a week ago that I suggested the Rockets' chances of grabbing Russell Westbrook were slim to none, and then about a day later I was eating crow. Now that the dust has settled there are still plenty of questions still but a few things have been cleared up.

It looks as though the Rockets intend to employ the same staggered approach with regard to James Harden and Westbrook's minutes. The strategy allows both players plenty of on ball time and keeps the pressure on an opponent's starters and bench. It's a highly effective regular season tactic, but it will be imperative to their playoff success to give the two stars ample opportunities to learn how to share the court. This is important because Harden rarely leaves the court in the postseason.

That's where the questions arise. Are Russ and Harden a good fit? Could the stage be set for massive implosion due to conflicting play styles, or will the two stars adapt and acquiesce to one another when need be? Can D'Antoni find a way to scheme around Westbrook's inefficient outside shot? More importantly, who will come better dressed night in and night out. Harden and Westbrook may be in the running for best on-court duo on the league, but they are hands down the most fashion-forward.

Tyson Chandler signs

Shortly after news of the Westbrook deal broke, veteran center Tyson Chandler signed a one year deal. A former defensive player of the year, Chandler has obviously lost a step but still provides valuable depth behind Clint Capela. Capela has been prone to injuries throughout his young career, and last season his absence was felt with Nene and Isaiah Hartenstein left to carry the load.

Iggy rumors remain

Since the acquisition of Westbrook, it has been rumored that the Rockets are focused on acquiring longtime target Andre Igoudala via trade with Memphis. Igoudala was aggressively pursued by the Rockets in free agency in 2017, but at the last minute chose to remain with the Golden State Warriors. The current hangup between the two sides revolves around Houston's reluctance to dive further into the luxury tax to take on what could be a one-year rental.

The Rockets may seem silly for prioritizing the acquisition of a 35 year old player who averaged 5.7 ppg last season, but make no mistake. This isn't a move for the regular season, and it's not for a starting spot. Igoudala's presence on the Rockets would serve as an almost identical role as the one Carlos Beltran provided to the Astros in 2017: a mentor who can still play. Even more so, he remains a defensive pest and is as clutch as they come.

Parting shot

The Rockets finished their summer league schedule with a 3-2 record, but may have found a diamond in the rough. Keep an eye on Chris Clemons, who was white-hot throughout. Clemons averaged 20.8 points per game to go with 5 3-pointers per game. It's possible he could be called up as a spark off the bench, but at 5'9" he'll have a difficult time proving that he isn't a defensive liability.

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