That fork in the road

Just yesterday, I remarked that the Houston Rockets stood in an enviable position.  Today brought potentially even better news.  From the Houston Chronicle:

On Tuesday, the Knicks announced that they would not match the Rockets’ offer to Lin, sending him back to Houston. And after a week of summer league, Alexander still wants that blockbuster deal, but no longer considers it as crucial to the team’s long-term outlook.

“I thought it was more important two months ago than today,” Alexander said of the pursuit of a trade for a franchise star. “After you watch Jeremy Lamb play, and you watch Terrence Jones play and (Donatas) Motiejunas play and Royce White play, and (Chandler) Parsons is really good, we add Jeremy Lin and it (the major trade) is important, but it’s not as ultra-important as I thought it was. “

There’s always the chance of doublespeak.  But if sincere, the sentiment is cause for celebration.

Longtime readers can attest, for years I begged that the organization choose a path, preferably a race to the bottom for a steady climb back up.  Instead, they tortured us, meddling with vets that hindered the ultimate goal.  We all heard the whispers and read between the lines: it was Alexander who insisted upon ‘competing’, refusing to strip his team down in an ‘ignoble’ way.  Money talks and business mattered.

The fear still, from the start of summer, was that this would still be the case.  If they failed to land Dwight Howard, they’d lick their wounds and pursue Gasol or maybe Josh Smith – some secondary star to plug the dam and reroute back onto that familiar course of mediocrity.  Perhaps tonight, we can all sleep easy.  Perhaps now, that fear can be gone.

If our conclusions hold true, there really are three major paths this franchise can take this summer.

Given the reports, the sole rumored destination spots for Dwight Howard at this moment are L.A. and Houston.  If Howard were to land in L.A., it would need to be via Cleveland or Houston; the Magic have no interest in an unsigned Bynum and L.A. has no other parts.

The Rockets can or will either:

  1. trade for Dwight Howard
  2. trade for Andrew Bynum
  3. stay the course with their current crop

Alexander’s statements seem to have eliminated the dreaded #4 – trading youth for second tier stars.

The options compose a balancing test made more complicated by the lack of Howard suitors and the performance of Houston’s rookies.

Howard would cost the most and carry the highest risk.  Staying the course would be the safest bet yet hold perhaps the lowest upside.  Bynum would lie in the middle.

The asking price for Howard has likely come down.  But still, maybe it would take two rookies and taking back two bad contracts.  What if getting Bynum required just relinquishing the Toronto pick?  No one really knows but that cost would be less than Howard.

Daryl Morey will ask himself, “how much better is an unsigned Dwight than a re-signed Bynum?”  He will ask, after this week, how much better is either of those options than what I currently have?

How does Lin, Lee, Howard, Parsons, Motiejunas, compare to Lin, Lamb, Bynum, White, and Jones?  How about Lin, Lamb, Parsons, Motiejunas, White, Jones, and two probably lottery picks next year?  Daryl Morey won’t rush and he won’t overpay.  He likes what he has and that’s a great spot to be in.

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