In the past months, rumors have continued to swirl that Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James will opt out of the final year of his contract and test the free agency market this summer. If the Cavaliers fail to reclaim the title this season, James is expected to leave his hometown team for the second time and chase another championship title somewhere else. As of now, the Houston Rockets have emerged as one of the frontrunners to sign James in free agency.
Unlike the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers, the Rockets have shown that they are capable of competing for the title and have two battle-tested superstars, James Harden and Chris Paul, who can play alongside LeBron James. However, according to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, the Rockets remain unsure if bringing James to Houston would be the best decision for the team.
“I asked a couple people in Houston about it, and there was sort of a look of, ‘Why would we break this up right now?’ Because they know everything they would have to give up. They know how many moves they would have to make. And would they be able to preserve the same level of shooting, the same level of defense? And this is people inside the organization. How much would they have to sacrifice of what they built as far as the way they play? Would they’d have to play significantly differently?”
Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey is one of the NBA executives who can make impossible things possible. Last offseason, many people didn’t believe that the Rockets could acquire Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers, mainly because of their lack of salary cap space. Still, Morey found a way to bring the All-Star guard to Houston and pair him with James Harden.
However, signing LeBron James will be more complicated than Paul’s previous acquisition. They will first need to re-sign Chris Paul to make the Rockets a more appealing free agency destination to James. Next, Houston should let go some of their incoming free agents like Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Tarik Black. To create more salary cap space to give James a maximum contract, the Rockets would have to find a team who will absorb Ryan Anderson and the remaining two-year, $42 million deal on his contract. To find a trade partner for Anderson, the Rockets should include future draft picks and young players.
At some point, LeBron James could be worth all the sacrifices the Rockets will need to make. The Golden State Warriors did the same thing when they signed Kevin Durant. In return, the Warriors won an NBA championship title. However, that does not mean that the same thing could happen with the Rockets. Breaking their core up could end up ruining the entire franchise, especially if James doesn’t fit well with the team.