The Houston Rockets once again fell short of expectations, falling in five games in their second-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, at least one general manager thinks trading James Harden would be a mistake.
"I wouldn't move Harden," an Eastern Conference GM told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. "He's still so good, and they're too old right now to just start a rebuild unless you're getting a Jayson Tatum or Luka Doncic to rebuild around."
Harden, 31, remains one of the top players in the NBA, winning a scoring title for the third straight season while averaging 34.3 points per game in 2019-20. He is a finalist for the MVP award, meaning he will at least finish in the top three of voting for the fourth straight season, and he won it in 2018.
The problem has been the lack of team success in the postseason.
Each season, the Rockets are considered a contender for a title, but the franchise hasn't reached the NBA finals in 25 years. They were eliminated in the second round in three of the last four years.
Money is now an issue, with both Harden and Russell Westbrook each owed over $80 million over the next two seasons. Age is a problem as well, with Danuel House (27), Austin Rivers (28) and Ben McLemore (27) the only members of the rotation who will be under 30 going into next season.
Even with a good deal for Harden, there isn't much in place for a rebuild.
The general manager recommended the squad stick together and try again next season:
"I'd probably run it back in some shape or form, especially with next year being a compressed time period. I would keep all options open, but I wouldn't be selling Harden just to the highest bidder. In the last two years, they easily could have won it all, so I don't think it's fair to panic yet if they lose. Now, if there's a great deal out there, that's a different story, but I still think it's worth riding out one more year."
The Rockets couldn't get past the Golden State Warriors during the past few seasons and will now have to compete with the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, among many others in the Western Conference. It won't be an easy task, but it appears to be the best option.
However, the GM added, "If Westbrook is tradable, get it done."