The Houston Rockets were aggressive this offseason in seeking a trade to upgrade their roster. Early on they were rumored to be targeting Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade scenario, but Butler chose a sign-and-trade opportunity with Miami instead.
That left the Rockets seeking out a Plan B, and after the Clippers stunned everyone by orchestrating a trade for Paul George in order to sign Kawhi Leonard, Houston got to work on a deal to bring in Russell Westbrook and reunite him with James Harden. They sent the Thunder Chris Paul and draft picks for Westbrook, banking on having a pair of league MVPs in the backcourt being enough to topple the other budding super-duos in the West.
Houston has been as close as any team in recent years to knocking off the Warriors, but now the big bads in the West reside in L.A. with the Clippers and Lakers. That’s not to mention Utah and Denver, both of whom could find themselves near the top of the standings, and a Golden State team that is hopeful to get Klay Thompson back and fully healthy come playoff time and prove they’re still a formidable opponent. The road to the Finals no longer means trying to knock off one top dog, but instead having to navigate quite the minefield throughout the West playoffs.
The Rockets better be able to do that soon, because as owner Tilman Fertitta knows, the future beyond the Harden-Westbrook era isn’t exactly bright given their draft pick situation. The Golden Nugget proprietor’s team is all-in on the next few years, and as he told Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, if they don’t get a title soon it may be a decade-plus before they have another shot.
“I think we put ourselves in the position that if we don’t win it in the next three or four years, we probably aren’t going to win one in the next 10 years,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports in an interview to promote his debut book titled “Shut Up And Listen,” which hits all major bookstores on Tuesday. “This is our window, and we need to seize the opportunity.”
He’s not wrong. He goes on to rattle off the list of over-30 players on the roster and how they’re all effectively locked up for the next four years, so after that, it’ll be rebuilding time in Houston. The hope is that they can take home the Larry O’B before then, but the challenge has only gotten more difficult.
Fertitta’s confident in his group, though, highlighting how adding Westbrook brings them an athleticism he believes they needed. We’ll find out exactly where they stand in the hierarchy of the new West this year, but if they fall short of expectations in Year 1, there will be decisions to be made about the next few years or if they should kickstart that rebuild a bit sooner than expected.