The Houston Rockets emerged as one of the four NBA teams where Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James could potentially sign in 2018 free agency. Unlike the Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Philadelphia 76ers, the Rockets prove their capability to beat any powerhouse teams in the league with the explosive backcourt duo of Chris Paul and James Harden. Pairing the two All-Star guards with the best player on the planet will make the Rockets a more formidable team next season.
However, acquiring LeBron James as an unrestricted free agent won’t be easy for the Rockets, knowing that they are currently buried deep in the luxury tax hell. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Houston would first need to decide what they plan to do with their incoming free agents like Chris Paul and Clint Capela. James is unlikely to join the Rockets if Paul won’t stay, and the two superstars will surely not agree on taking a huge discount.
Pincus suggested that the best option for the Rockets is to engage in a trade deal with the Cavaliers. However, it won’t be a sign-and-trade since it would put them near the hard cap which will limit their ability to fill out the remainder of the roster. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey could do the same thing they did when they acquired Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers last summer.
Like Paul did last offseason, LeBron James should opt in for the final year of his contract with the Cavaliers and waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets. However, the Cavaliers are unlikely to take Ryan Anderson, who the Rockets could potentially use to match the salary, even if Houston will include a first-round pick or two. Pincus believes the Rockets and the Cavaliers will be needing to find a third or fourth team to facilitate the trade. Successfully getting rid of Anderson’s contract will lessen the luxury tax the Rockets need to pay by $20 million while keeping the core of Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, LeBron James, and Clint Capela.
As of now, the Rockets are focused on improving their game before the 2018 playoffs start. They currently hold the best record this season, three wins ahead of the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors. According to Brad Botkin of CBS Sports, the Rockets are in a win-win situation no matter what the outcome of the 2017-18 NBA season will be. If they fall short, Houston becomes a strong candidate to acquire LeBron James which will help them win multiple NBA championship titles over the next few years.