Now, All-Star guard James Harden is making it known that he doesn’t necessarily see the Rockets needing a major overhaul to take the next step.
From an interview with CSN Houston’s Adam Wexler:
I think we have a lot already, a couple of smaller moves would be good for us. I don't know if necessarily the big move would help us out a lot, we have a lot of good things in our locker room, a lot of young guys that want to get better and want to work. Maybe a couple of small moves and we'll be right here we want to be.
With regards to Parsons—whose $970,000 player option Houston didn’t pick up, making him a restricted free agent (per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski)—Harden was noticeably supportive of bringing back the versatile forward:
He's just key. He's a big piece of our team, to our puzzle, to where we want to go. Hopefully [Rockets general manager] Daryl Morey and the front office and Chandler and his team can get everything worked out. Like I said, he's a major piece to this puzzle, hopefully he can get it worked out and we can keep the ball rolling.
The Rockets finished the 2013-14 season with a 54-28 record, good for fourth best in a historically deep Western Conference. Given another year to gel—to say nothing of improvements from players like Parsons—it’s conceivable that Houston could finish at or near the top of the conference standings come next spring.
Questions remain, of course. Chief among them being whether Houston’s defense, which finished 12th in terms of overall efficiency, can take the next step.
As for the prospects of reeling in Love or Anthony, the question will certainly be posed whether such an asset-dependent move might undermine the offensive chemistry head coach Kevin McHale worked so hard to cultivate.
Speaking of McHale, ESPN’s Marc Stein posits that the Rockets may eventually have to make a decision on that front, too:
Locker room unease was bubbling in this series. And McHale's perceived shortcomings as an in-game strategist have been a talking point going back to his days on Minnesota's bench. But sources insisted again this week that, to date, there has been no tangible evidence to suggest that the Rockets have a coaching change in mind.
They still have to formally pick up McHale's 2014-15 option to remove any doubt. And links to Stan Van Gundy, Howard's old Orlando coach, are bound to persist until Stan is coaching somewhere else. For now, though, McHale’s return next season remains the most likely scenario.
As for Harden, he remains a top-10 NBA talent with room for growth to spare. However, being able to lead a team out of the West—brutal as it’s bound to be again next season—is an entirely different animal.
It’s clear that the Rockets are looking to contend for a title now. Whether or not they do will likely determine whether we remember Harden as a singular superstar capable of carrying a team, or someone for whom his previously picturesque view made the other side's grass seem a bit greener than it actually was.