Best Stars for Houston Rockets to Pair with James Harden and Dwight Howard
It's no secret the Houston Rockets are on the hunt for a third star. With James Harden and Dwight Howard already in place, the Rockets and general manager Daryl Morey may feel as though they are one move away from a championship and a potential dynasty.
By the day, it seems less and less likely that Houston will finish out this offseason without bringing in a big-time player. Here's what Morey told Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated earlier this year:
We feel very comfortable that our two top players are what we need to be a championship team," said Morey. "And we do need someone to step into that third role. We don't have our third-best player on a championship team yet, and we need one of younger guys to develop into that -- or potentially make an addition, whether it be this year or in free agency this offseason.
Adding even more incentive for the Rockets to find that player this offseason is the salary schedule of Chandler Parsons. Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports with more:
The Houston Rockets plan to decline the fourth-year option on forward Chandler Parsons' contract, freeing him to become a restricted free agent this summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
In one scenario, Houston could secure three max-out players – including Howard, Harden and a potential star free agent – and then re-sign Parsons to an extension below the max-level range. Parsons could command in the $12 million to $13 million annual range, league executives tell Yahoo Sports.
While it's clear the Rockets are chasing another star, which players would be the best options in free agency and on the trade market? Let's take a look at five of the best stars to pair with Dwight Howard and James Harden.
The best star and the best fit for the Houston Rockets would be Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. There are a few reasons for this.
The first is that Love's fit offensively is absolutely perfect. As a pick-and-pop big man and deadly perimeter shooter, defenses wouldn't be able to double Dwight Howard on the block or collapse on James Harden nearly as much. Throw in Love's offensive rebounding alongside Howard, and the Rockets would be a virtual lock to have the league's best offense.
Love can also help the Rockets maintain their current style of run-and-gun basketball since he's such a prolific rebounder and the game's best outlet passer.
Would there be issues defensively with a Harden-Love pairing? Absolutely, but role players like Patrick Beverley can help mitigate some of that damage. It's not enough of a concern to scare the Rockets away, from the sound of it. Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, via Twitter:
Another contender planning aggressive play for a Kevin Love trade, sources tell Yahoo: Houston. Kevin McHale has strong bond with Love.
While Love would almost certainly cost the Rockets Chandler Parsons, who is a sign-and-trade asset now, it's hard to imagine any team being able to slow down this attack. It wouldn't take much additional work to turn a Harden-Love-Howard trio into a dynasty.
While Carmelo Anthony isn't as good of a fit in Houston because more of his opportunities come through isolation, it would still be awfully tough for the Rockets to pass on such an incredible offensive talent.
Rockets blogger Rahat Huq of Red94 explains why Anthony could be a huge upgrade for Houston:
If played at the ’4′, he would give the team a weapon to counter the superstar power forwards in the West that torture them regularly. We saw against Portland that even the combination of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik–two of the game’s best interior defenders–was not enough to shut down LaMarcus Aldridge. Having Anthony would at least make players of that ilk work at the other end, rather than being able to rest up on defense. The thinking goes that if you can’t stop them, at least make them stop you too. And there isn’t a single power forward alive, or even person for that matter, who can guard Carmelo Anthony.
Again, there would be defensive issues and perhaps some clashes over who should get the ball and how much, but the talent would be undeniable. Howard would be pressed to protect the rim better than ever, but it's not like Terrence Jones was a very good defender, either.
Besides, virtually every time down the floor, Houston would have a mismatch to exploit. Whether it's Harden in the pick-and-roll with Howard (something we need to see far more of), Melo in the mid-post or Howard dominating down low, Houston would always have something to exploit.
Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap could be an interesting trade acquisition, provided Houston is willing to give up something other than just Omer Asik or Jeremy Lin.
Millsap himself is on an expiring deal, so Atlanta may be ready to cash in with some future assets like draft picks or perhaps even a young player like Terrence Jones. Whether Houston is ready to pay that sort of price or not is tough to say, but Millsap would be a great fit on both ends.
Over the past few years, Millsap has really added some stretch to his game, which could be a nice fit with Dwight Howard in the frontcourt. He's an underrated defender as well, as he uses his mobility well to play passing lanes and stay active.
There would probably be fewer concerns about sharing the ball with Millsap than there would be with Anthony as well. Millsap was a huge part of a Hawks team that really moved the rock, and his ability to find big men from the high post would be a welcomed addition.
If the Rockets strike out on Love or Anthony, it might be worth it to overpay a bit and secure a solid two-way power forward like Millsap.
Let's say the Rockets fail to acquire Kevin Love via trade or Carmelo Anthony in free agency. Then what?
Sticking with the exact same roster as last year seems unlikely, especially because Parsons is going to get paid. Would a buy-low trade candidate like Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith start to make sense then?
It's tough to say, especially since you never know which Josh Smith you're getting. If it's the engaged Smith that stays in front of guards on the perimeter, flies around to protect the rim, makes smart passes and at least limits his bad shot selection, then giving up an expiring contract (Jeremy Lin or Omer Asik) to acquire his lengthy deal makes sense.
If it's the Smith we saw last year, though? The shameless chucker who stopped defending since he already got paid? Then the Rockets would be better off rolling with the much cheaper Terrence Jones and hoping for another player to become available.
If Smith could play at his best, though, acquiring him for a small price could be a gamble that could result in a championship. He's plenty capable, but you just never know.
But then again, crazy things can happen in free agency. If LeBron gets bored and wants a new challenge, or if Wade gets close to retiring, maybe Bosh would consider jumping ship and securing a spot with two stars in his home state of Texas.
You have to imagine Houston would jump all over that and move anyone necessary to carve out the space to sign Bosh. He's the perfect stretch big man who is incredibly underrated defensively, which is just what Houston needs. Love and Anthony are more talented, but Bosh would be the superior fit.
Again, don't hold your breath here. Houston would have to clear the necessary cap space, and Miami would have to implode somehow for this to make sense. It's a dream scenario for Houston, but it shouldn't be looked at as a real possibility.