Rockets GM Daryl Morey talked with Sports Illustrated recently, and he had some interesting things to say in regards to the James Harden extension and to the Rockets' offseason player acquisitions.
First up, is the Harden extension, which will pay The Beard $30 million plus for the 2018-2019 season (in addition to $26 million this year and $28 million next year) in the only concrete extended year over his previous deal. Harden also holds a player option for the 2019-2020 season in excess of of $32 million.
Despite forking over an additional $50 million in cheddar for what amounts to only one additional guaranteed season, Morey feels this was a commitment to the Rockets future and a commitment to doing whatever it takes to make the team better. He told SI:
"When those top few bigger free agents went off the board, we thought Harden's extension was the best use of available cap space that we had.
"You have to have top-five, top-10 level players to have any chance to win in this league. We've had a long history of of both being able to recruit them in free agency and get them through trade. We're not a team that ever picks high in the draft. I think our highest pick we made here was 14 since the team got Yao Ming in 2002. If we're never gonna pick high. which is where a lot of these top players come from, you've got to be able to get them through trade and free agency.
"Even through trade, those deals are often made to teams that the player wants to go to. It was a pretty easy analysis in that you need the top-tier player no matter what and you want to be able to signal to those players across the league that if you're in Houston, at any given moment, the team's always going to try to take care of you -- whether it be with money or a top team you're playing with."
Morey then went on to discuss the reasons behind snagging top free agent acquisition Ryan Anderson, pitching his shooting, offensive versatility and defensive rebounding as the parts of Ryno's game he had his eye one when making the signing:
"We really saw Ryan as the perfect spacing four in the league. Not only is he an elite shooter, he's got more game than that. There's a lot of switching in the league now, and he can attack the switches well. He's someone who's got a versatile offensive game. And then defensively, obviously, it's not his strength, but he's been a strong defensive rebounder over his career."
While Morey may be a bit off base on his defensive rebounding remarks -- Anderson has averaged just 3.4 per game with a defensive rebounding percentage of 15.5 percent for his career -- the rest of his comments are spot on.
He also made sure to touch on one of the biggest perceived weaknesses of the incoming group of free agents -- injury potential. Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nene Hilario all have an extensive injury history, especially in recent years. Anderson has averaged just 50 games per season over the last three years. Gordon has averaged 56 per year and Nene has averaged only 59, giving the notoriously on the shelf center/power forward the most games played over the last three years of any incoming free agent.
"The injury history is real, obviously, and I do believe players who were injured are the most likely to get injured. But none of those guys have anything that's sort of a long-term concern, at least from what our doctors are telling us. Eric broke his fingers a couple times. Ryan's had issues that are complete resolved as well. We feel pretty good about that going forward."
The entire Sports Illustrated article can be found here, and it's worth the extra few minutes to read the entire piece.