Due to the James Harden acquisition coup, general manager Daryl Morey pushed up the timetable and expectations for the Rockets to compete in the playoffs.
When looking at the state of the Rockets, many look and wonder: what's next?
Can improvements be made to the roster sooner rather than later?
Or is it best to wait until the offseason when the Rockets will have close to $20 million available for more improvements?
At 14-12 and riding a three-game winning streak, the Houston Rockets are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff discussion after one-third of the season.
At least the rumors are pointing to the power forward position, where the greatest need for improvement lies.
But neither trade target seems like a viable solution to the problem.
Gasol would definitely be an upgrade over incumbent Patrick Patterson. But, to make a trade work with Gasol's $19 million salary each of the next two seasons would prove difficult and counterproductive.
To match up salaries, the Rockets would have to include guys like Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Patterson, Carlos Delfino and Daequan Cook.
This just puts the Rockets where they were a couple years ago. Yes, they would have Harden, Gasol and Lin. However, the rest of the cupboard would be bare.
What about Cousins? No thank you. He has already been suspended by the league twice this season and is currently on a team-mandated indefinite suspension. Despite the tempting talent levels, he is a guy who seemingly is running out of people that will put up with him. That is not the kind of person the Rockets should want to have come in and contaminate the good vibes surrounding the team.
The Rockets may be able to add smaller pieces here and there if they choose to. But, the only tradeable assets they have right now are Parsons and Patterson.
Parsons seems like part of the solution and Patterson, while productive, is not going to bring back the return Rockets fans are hoping for.
Royce White has no real value given his current issues.
Asik and Jeremy Lin have value. But do they add more value to the Rockets than they would another team? Maybe in a couple seasons, when those salaries escalate into the $14 million per year range for both of them, they might be of less use to the Rockets. At the same time, unless Morey wants to think outside the box to improve his roster, these guys are probably going nowhere.
So, sit tight.
It does not appear any trades are on the horizon, nor should there be. It behooves the Rockets to continue to build team chemistry and improve from within for now.
Come this offseason, Morey will have money to spend on a big free agent (Andrew Bynum makes sense as a straight signing or in a sign-and-trade with Asik) and can improve through the draft like he has been able to do the last few years.
Or, the offseason will give him and other GMs the chance to sit down and iron out a bigger trade. Texas native LaMarcus Aldridge would be a nice target to set their sights on. Again, they would probably have to look at giving up Asik, Patterson, and others.
But, until then, the Rockets would be better served just building on the success they have enjoyed at the start of the season and continue to blend their current roster together.