So far during his first off-season bout as the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Rafael Stone has weaved past the haymakers of his star players requesting a trade while landing a counter strike that could help influence them to stay.
It felt like the past two weeks, the sky has been falling and that H-Town was preparing to watch a cooled-off version of their Rockets. Instead, they inked Christian Wood into a three-year, $41M deal that potentially could make both James Harden and Russell Westbrook consider staying put for a bit longer.
For now, the Rockets are better than the last time we saw them back on September 12.
Heading into the off-season, it was clear that the Rockets had two big holes because not only did they have a lack of size but they also did not have a player that that was taller than Harden with the ability to create buckets. Thankfully for Houston, Wood fills two holes in one —— though there is still more work to be done —— with his versatility to score from beyond the arc, in the paint, or on the drive, along with being a constant lob-threat.
Now, how could he help influence Brodie and the Beard to stay put? Heading into this upcoming season, it was clear that the three teams to beat in the western conference would be the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Golden State Warriors barring injury.
Sadly for anyone who enjoys watching great players do great things, Klay Thompson tore his Achilles after spending all of last season recovering from his torn ACL. Not only is this a crushing blow for the league, but it likely will change the Warrior’s ceiling as well. But let’s not forget, that Stephen Curry guy is still around and GS has added Kelly Oubre and James Wiseman, so sleeping on them is not wise.
This leaves the two Los Angeles teams. We’ll start with the Clippers. After a disappointing exit in the second round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, the biggest question regarding them has been how will they recover. Well... they sent Landry Shamet packing and Luke Kennard in the process. Unfortunately for them though, they’ve lost both Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green, so it will be interesting to see if that team takes a step back.
Speaking of Harrell, he went to the team that currently sits atop the mountain, the L.A Lakers. They have had a busy off-season, as they’ve traded Danny Green to OKC (he’s now a 76er) for Dennis Schröder and picked up Wesley Mathews who was on the Milwaukee Bucks. These three additions have bolstered the Laker’s chances of winning back-to-back championships.
The recent development around the West could give Houston’s MVP duo more reason to try things out one last time, because let it not be forgotten, Houston was scary at times last season, and although our last images of them were a nightmare, a big part was due to a hobbled Westbrook and the inability to mix size into their lineups. There is no better time to fix both of those issues than this off-season and Wood is a huge step in the right direction.
The Rockets have a new head coach, a new general manager, and a new third-best player... so could this lead to a new hope? We’ll find out soon.