The Houston Rockets should roll the dice on a potential Goran Dragic rental


Update below at 7:25PM

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.

Update at 7:25PM

  • It is not insignificant that the agent for Goran Dragic also represents one Patrick Beverley, a minor detail which at the very least, holds some ramifications on this process, and at most, is directly contributory to the concoction of Dragic’s supposed “list” of preferred destinations.  I’ve written at length regarding these conflicts of interest, and the grip they have on the game, alarming personally to me in particular as an attorney myself.  We already saw this summer how such backdoor machinations can work, with Chandler Parsons let out of his deal prematurely because of the deal Daryl Morey had to strike with Dan Fegan.  Bill Duffy, no doubt, would prefer Dragic far away from Beverley, for fear of marginalizing the latter client, and dimishing the earnings that might be to come.  Even if nothing is going on, the whole thing is disgusting, and one wonders why and how the league–one marvelously built upon a system of laws–hasn’t found processes to curtail such undue influence.  The appearance of impropriety shouldn’t even be possible.
  • We are seeing in this whole thing how asset collection can go wrong with Phoenix absorbing Isaiah Thomas this summer into cap space with the thinking a good value deal could always be traded away later.  They didn’t expect, though, to royally piss off their best player and push the franchise to a crossroads.
  • The Reggie Jackson situation is interesting because he’s a much better player than he’s looked this season, and in a vacuum, you’d think Houston would give a look.  But his value lies in a “no man’s land” where he isn’t worth the Pelicans pick, but probably couldn’t be had for the pair of second-rounders Daryl Morey possesses.  Besides, unless blown away by a sweetheart offer (say: the one the Rockets are dangling in front of Phoenix for Dragic), one can’t imagine Sam Presti subjecting himself to the ridicule sure to come by facilitating a Jackson-Harden backcourt, especially if the free-agent-to-be thrives.
  • What is the cost for Ty Lawson?  Surely more than Houston can afford.  Most seem to think he’d be preferable to Dragic, not because he’s the superior player, but because Lawson is still locked in to reasonable money after the expiration of this year.  If in theory, it would take the Pelicans pick and Terrence Jones to get Dragic, how high could the ante be upped for Lawson?  And what need does Denver even have for a deal?  The point of rebuilding is to shed bad contracts and aging players, neither category being one into which Ty Lawson fits.
  • If it happens, Dragic-Harden would at worst be the second best backcourt in all of basketball, a thought which has me salivating for the remainder of the season.  We’ll know in under 24 hours if the dream becomes reality.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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