The Houston Rockets are headed for a Western Conference Finals showdown with the Golden State Warriors this season. However, it’s the offseason that has fans either worried or grinning from ear-to-ear. Let’s get the small talk out the way. I truly believe that the Rockets are the most complete team in the NBA. With that said, why would they even entertain thoughts of adding LeBron James to this roster?
For starters, how difficult is it to pass up 26.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.9 assists this season? This would be one of the things Daryl Morey will have to consider before mortgaging over his team’s future for one or two seasons. Yes, a championship may come the Rockets way but at what cost?
Look around the Rockets locker room and you will see players with a specific role. While 10 of the last 11 NBA Finals have featured at least one Big 3 team, the Rockets are on course to do what only the Lakers (’09-’10) and Mavericks (’10-’11) could do. Each team found a way to defeat a Big 3 in a championship matchup. The ’17-18 Rockets led by James Harden and Chris Paul could be next. Which brings us back to the LeBron issue. Truth be told, he’s not needed.
While his numbers throughout his career has him firmly cemented in the Hall of Fame, Morey must pay attention to what he has right in from of him. Harden is the soul of this team. Paul has taken on a Robin-like approach, however, it’s the role players who make the Rockets heavy favorites. Case in point. According to Sporting News, the Rockets were 21-1 as of February 2, with Harden, Paul, and Capela in the starting lineup.
Plus, Morey will have to take into account how LeBron will disrupt ball movement. Paul touches the ball 72.7 times per game while holding it 5.7 seconds per touch. Harden touches the ball 85.7 times per while holding it 6.3 seconds per touch. And James, he touches the ball 87.7 times per while holding it 4.7 times per touch. Do the math. That’s 16.7 seconds between the three of them with only a 24-second shot clock.
LeBron James may be the biggest fish in the sea come free agency, but the Rockets must find a way to keep their core players even if that means directing James elsewhere. The NBA is not MLB where large contracts can be gobbled up like guppies. While Morey is a master at his craft, the 2018 free agency period will be unlike any he’s ever dealt with.
While Harden is set, the Rockets will need to find money to pay Paul, Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Clint Capela. Out of those four, Capela and Paul are the most important. The Rockets have done it without Paul before but they have not been as dominant as they are now with him. The same can be said for Capela. How can Morey turn his back on 14.5 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per? Losing Ariza will sting some on the defensive side but not as much as losing Moute and Capela.
Adding LeBron will take any sting away but paying LeBron $35 million will leave the Rockets depleted of funds. Morey will have to make a tough call. Will it be LeBron or Capela, Ariza, and Moute?