Rockets fans love their players. That’s probably true of most fans. I don’t know. I can only say with certainty that Rockets fans really, really love their players.
It’s endearing. Without being patronizing, it’s cute. It may also be a product of youth.
The Harden era brought a wave of supporters that, somehow, the Luis Scola-Kevin Martin era failed to. Inoculating James Harden against the relentless criticism he endured in Rockets' red solidified their love. They’ve been through the trenches now.
They’re here for the rebuild. Those of us who watched this team when it rostered players who’d been drafted in the 1970s should welcome them with open arms. Some of them need guidance.
They don’t really know how this rebuilding thing works.
Here today, gone tomorrow
Rockets fans can love their players with all the feeling their hearts can withstand. It doesn’t mean they’ll be on this team in three years.
It’s a reality that’s worth accepting. Reality is always worth accepting. It’s like buying a pet: you know you’re overwhelmingly likely to outlive them. You don’t want to think about that every day, but if you convince yourself that little Ladyfinger is immortal, you’re in for a heart-wrenching reality check.
The Rockets don’t need Kevin Porter Jr. to be a point guard right now. They don’t need Alperen Sengun to be a future superstar. They don’t need Jae’Sean Tate to be the glue guy on their next contending roster. Any of those outcomes would be great, but what the Rockets really need are options.
The Rockets are a lump of clay
It’s easier to list the things we know about the Rockets than the things we don’t. It’s a much shorter list:
-Jalen Green looks like a future superstar.
That’s all we know. It’s all we need to know.
We don’t know if Kevin Porter Jr. is a point guard. His ability to break down a defender in isolation is proven. His development as a catch-and-shoot target has been remarkable. He still needs to significantly speed up his processing time. It’s true that modern point guards can be score-first players, but having a lead ball-handler who can read a defense quickly remains important.
It would benefit the Rockets to add a strong backup point guard with those traits this offseason. That doesn’t mean giving up on Porter Jr. It means experimenting with different looks until you find out what works. That’s what rebuilding teams do.
We don’t know if Alperen Sengun will be a star. His passing vision is nothing short of breathtaking (even if the execution can fall short). His low-post footwork is pristine. He also has slow feet and short arms. The NBA’s best defenses typically feature an elite rim protector at the five. It’s doubtful that Sengun has the physical traits to become one. He’ll have to work to get to average and/or impact the game so dramatically on offense that it negates his defensive shortcomings.
It would benefit the Rockets to add a strong backup center who protects the rim this offseason. That doesn’t mean giving up on Sengun. It means experimenting...
Do you see the trend?
There’s a leading voice in the Rockets community advocating for a Jae’Sean Tate trade. Predictably, people were upset by the mere suggestion. Tate has poured blood, sweat, and tears into this losing club for two seasons. How could we cast him aside like yesterday’s news?
The answer is simple: to give the team more options. Tate could yield a first-round pick that becomes a player who is, believe it or not, better than Tate. I’m not advocating for a Tate trade for its own sake. I love the guy: I’m a Rockets fan too.
I also love the team more than I love the players it currently happens to roster. As it stands, the Rockets have been the worst team in the league for two seasons in a row.
With that being the case, the team doesn’t really need to keep anyone. Green should be virtually untouchable. The only players the front office should consider moving him for are internationally known on a first-name basis. Luka and Giannis aren’t hitting the trade market any time soon.
Otherwise, the worst team in the NBA won’t improve by digging their heels into their current roster construction. Change is inevitable. When the Rockets are contending, the roster will once again become static. Until then, the Rockets need only to keep an open mind.
The more options they give themselves, the sooner they’ll reach a point where there are no more choices left to make.