An ESPN report yesterday by Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that Houston could possibly be willing to gut the entire team in their pursuit of Jimmy Butler, dangling Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and P.J. Tucker individually in trades. We already knew two of those three would be needed for salary matching purposes, but if a third is needed to route a draft pick on to the 76ers, Houston will have essentially completely dismantled the core of a team that won 65 games just two seasons ago.
My first thought was that felt rather drastic given how close the team probably is if just standing pat and making incremental upgrades – there’s a strong case to be made that the Rockets could still be the best team in the West with the right mid level acquisition.
But I started thinking about it more, and I’m seeing the likely rationale from Daryl Morey’s perspective. Getting Butler is a long term move. It’s odd to think of an acquisition of a 30 year old as such, but that’s what this would constitute – a rebuild. It would give the team two 30 year old bonafide superstars in the primes of their careers, and three legitimate chances to punch in a championship before Harden’s contract expired. Paradoxically, while it might take the Rockets further away this upcoming season, it would extend their window. Tucker is 34, Gordon will be a free agent next summer, and Capela’s usefulness doesn’t extend beyond this season when the Warriors get back together.
As stated above, next season would be tough, given the hard cap ramifications. But if presuming that the team would not be hard capped the following year, they might feel better about their chances about filling out the roster. You only really need six or seven players and they would already have three.