By: Rahat Huq
To begin, know that I'm composing this against my better judgment. I am fully aware that all of my efforts could be rendered completely useless upon the arrival of just one mere tweet. But alas, to lay prisoner to fear...ah screw it, you guys get the point; a Woj-bomb is due any moment now so I'm typing fast.
I thought about it all night, and then I thought about it most of the day, and the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that dealing assets for Goran Dragic, even significant combinations, would be the appropriate course of action for the Houston Rockets at the present moment. It is true that the risk would be supreme as reports have indicated that Dragic would not commit long-term to the team upon an acquisition. But I think in this case, the potential benefit outweighs the risk.
If acquiring Dragic, Houston absolutely would be in the thick of the title conversation with a roster as enviable as any in basketball. To those looking to the future, I'd point to the last twenty years of Rockets history as proof of how rare true contention in basketball really is. As I've been saying, if you aren't willing to go all in during the year you have the league MVP, what situation would you really deem sufficient to push forward your chips? You collect assets for chances such as these.
Moreover, the greater concern is Dwight Howard's health and the reality that he may be nearing the end as a primetime component. Sure, this could all just be a blip on the radar and he could just as well come back as dominant as ever, and anchor the paint for the Rockets for the next 4 years. But its just as likely that we see a greatly diminished Dwight next season and beyond until the end of his contract. If you refuse to believe that there is reason for concern regarding Dwight's health and long term prospects, you simply have your head in the sand. Again, he may be fine. But planning requires taking all possibilities into consideration.
This is also likely the last year of Josh Smith in a Rockets uniform with the team only owning early bird rights on the free-agent-to-be. We've already seen what the mercurial forward has been able to do against playoff foes when matched up against inferior second units. Simply put, when Dwight Howard returns in a few weeks, the Rockets may not have, for some time, a team as deep as this one could be with Goran Dragic. A backcourt combination of Harden, Dragic, Beverley, flanked by Ariza and Brewer on the wings, with Howard, Motiejunas, and Smith inside is as lethal a rotation as any in basketball. Daryl Morey may not have the chance to assemble talent like that again in the near future.
Even if the Rockets do lose Dragic in free agency, the players' union's rejection of the cap-smoothing proposal this weekend, should offer some hope for a quick rebuild. With the cap expected to jump to $90 million in 2016, if eventually there is no smoothing altogether (ie: if a new iteration is not introduced, and the sides come to terms), Houston could just look to restock the cupboard in free agency that summer. It would hurt to lose Dragic, and also the lottery pick, to be sure. But to pass up on a chance like the Rockets have currently out of fear of what may happen would hurt far more.