The Houston Rockets need to stay put as they are.
Their formidable front office, led by general manager Daryl Morey, is famous for its big, splashy moves. Many have suggested larger moves yet are in order—not least all those calling for the team to bring in Rajon Rondo—but now, more than ever, is the time to stand pat and reap the rewards of their scrupulous work.
The Rockets have all but used up the glut of assets Morey made sure to accumulate over the years his franchise was stalled. He now has his team’s money where his mouth was, having effectively converted their stock into product.
An abstract cloud of basketball capital—made up of draft picks, trade exceptions, clever salaries and ample room under the cap—has turned into one of the most impressive stables of talent in the NBA.
In order to bring in another dynamic star, Houston would almost certainly need to part ways with one of the more prized members of their core: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons or Terrence Jones.
Some may be hesitant to overvalue Jones. But his offensive intuition and shooting range, combined with his size, essentially make him the ideal stretch-4 the team’s been wanting. He’s also just 22 years old, which means his defense is set for vast improvement if Houston can develop him into a strong system player.
And even though neither Omer Asik nor Jeremy Lin has played exactly up to their somewhat lofty expectations this season—Lin is averaging just 7.4 points over his last eight games, while Asik has missed most of the season injured and is subject to trade rumors—they’re both still invaluable talents, and are sure to see a lot of rotation minutes in the postseason.
Asik in particular has shown recent signs of a resurgence. Against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 26, he played 17 minutes, even sharing the floor with Dwight Howard for a significant stretch, as he gave Blake Griffin considerable trouble in the post.
The big-man tandem could be useful for the Rockets in many more circumstances, depending on whom the Rockets match up with in the playoffs. The duo was disastrous together earlier in the season, but Houston now seems to be finding a way to use it as a surprise ace in the hole.
Certainly, at least the Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers all carry enough frontcourt weight to give coach Kevin McHale some anxiety running the unseasoned Jones out on defense in the short term. Asik can’t spread the floor and slash like Jones, but his distinct skill set is sure to be more optimal for their goals in tons of situations this season.
Asik’s emergence would be just another boon for the Rockets, who’ve seen their potential turn into results over the last two months of the season.
18-6 since the new year began, Houston is clicking. And a lot of it has to do with their specific balance of characters, who are finding each other in the locker room as well as on the court, riding a sizable wave of fun and goodwill through their best stretch of the season.
The Rockets could very well be championship contenders—if not this year, certainly next.
But they'll only find out for sure if they allow themselves some continuity and consistency instead of resetting their deck yet again. Chemistry-building is a long process, and the Rockets are only recently starting to see some of it work for them after two straight seasons of major changes.
Will they make the right move and stick with this crew as it's constituted?
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