One of the first major shakeups in NBA front offices this offseason came on Thursday as Rockets GM Daryl Morey resigned after a 13-season tenure in Houston. Morey will remain on the job until November 1st according to the Rockets to help assist ownership and the front office in the team's coaching search before handing over the reins to Rafael Stone, Morey’s No. 2.
The shift in management and head coach (Mike D’Antoni decided to move on after his contract expired) has opened the door to plenty of uncertainty in Houston about the future. The Rockets have a ton of payroll committed already ($130 million in 2020-21) to a team that went down without much of a fight in the second round to the Lakers (4-1) this postseason. They also have already given up three of their next seven first-round picks, along with two first-round pick swaps to the Thunder. Finding routes to improve and get younger will be tough for them without some trades this offseason.
The Rockets have a couple of big stars on their payroll but also a number of intriguing role pieces lining up the remaining of their roster. To get a better sense of whether the Celtics could enter the mix as a potential trade partner with a Houston team that’s sure to make a few notable moves under new management, I took a look at key players on the Rockets roster, their contract and potential fit in Boston and whether the C’s could make a run at them.
Russell Westbrook (three years, $131 million remaining on deal): This was a toxic contract last offseason when the Rockets foolishly gave up two first-round picks and pick swaps with Chris Paul (and his bad contract) for it. Now? The same old problems surfaced with Westbrook in the postseason making this deal a non-starter for any deal that has title aspirations in the short-term. A big-market franchise looking for some star power (Knicks?) could make a run at him. The Celtics have far better options to build with.
Verdict: No thanks
Eric Gordon (Four years, $74 million remaining, last year non-guaranteed): The Rockets rewarded the sharpshooting 31-year-old with a $74 million extension last September and he responded with the worst shooting season of his career (36.9% FG, 31.7% 3pt). That combined with the league's revenue shortfall this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic makes giving Gordon an extension probably one of the biggest mistakes of Morey’s tenure. The shooting guard would probably be looking at a market half the size of his extension this offseason if they simply let him play out his current deal.
Gordon’s career 37 percent mark from 3-point range signals that he’s due for a bounce-back year but the 3-point shooting specialist (over 10 attempts per game) remains a low-efficiency shooter inside the arc, especially at the rim, which doesn’t bode well for this contract aging well as he gets deeper into his 30s. With Boston’s salary commitments about to skyrocket next season once Tatum’s extension kicks in, committing nearly $20 million per year for Gordon to be an average 3-point specialist is not a smart use of resources for what could be a limited budget in Boston.
Gordon does have the type of contract that the C’s would probably try to extend Gordon Hayward at this offseason but Hayward was the far better player last season. If Hayward opts in and shows no sign of wanting to stay in Boston beyond next season, offering him up for Gordon would require more sweetener to be added (PJ Tucker/Daniel House) from Houston’s end for the C’s to swallow the bad contract. That doesn’t make sense for Houston though if they plan on trying to remain competitive in the West since Hayward isn’t going to put this team over the top and his big salary only enhances luxury tax penalties for Houston.
Assuming Marcus Smart is not put on the table for an offer (Houston would have to sweeten the pot a lot more beyond Gordon), look for the C’s to pass on Gordon’s pricy deal.
Verdict: Too much long-term money to swallow
Robert Covington: (Two years, $25 million left on deal): The Rockets just gave up Clint Capela and a first-round pick