There are rumors swirling around the NBA world that the Houston Rockets could be setting up to make a push for not one, but both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. This would be a monumental move for the Rockets, who just a few years ago couldn’t lure a single free agent to play for them in the Lone Star state.
Earlier this week, the Rockets sent center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans for a future draft pick, clearing his cap hit off of the books. This was the first step for the Rockets to clear enough cap room to go after James or Anthony. Next, according to the league’s official website, the Rockets are going to attempt to trade point guard Jeremy Lin.
Lin’s salary for next season is almost $15 million, but has the same cap hit at nearly $8.5 million as Asik. This means that whatever team trades for Lin would have to pay him the $15 million, but only about half of it goes against their cap. If the Rockets can unload Lin’s contract, it would give them almost $17 million in cleared cap space to go after James or Anthony.
Daryl Morey seems to have big plans in store for Houston. Both James and Anthony seem to be in play for the Rockets, who are one of the few teams in the NBA that could pull off landing both superstars. To do this, the Rockets would have to pull off a sign-and-trade.
The way it would work, for example, is if the Rockets were to sign Anthony to a deal, they would then have to trade James Harden to the Miami Heat for LeBron and then sign him to a contract. This works the other way around as well. If the Rockets sign James, they would trade Harden to the New York Knicks for Anthony. Whichever team trading for Harden would do the deal because they are getting the top offensive shooting guard in the league as compensation for losing their superstar that is going to sign elsewhere.
As great as this sounds, the Rockets would essentially be forfeiting their future by trading Harden, who is only 24 years old, to win now. The Rockets would make a push for both superstars just to have a shot at winning multiple titles in the next five years. This may not be the smartest of plans long-term for a franchise that has been desperately trying to find a way to stay relevant.
Harden is still developing his NBA game. Even though he lacks inspiration on the defensive end, he is one of the game’s top scorers at this stage of his career. Entering his prime, Harden could offer a stable superstar for the Rockets to have for the next eight or more years.
Anthony is 30 years old and James is 29 years old, and both are on the back half of their careers. They each still have a lot left in the tank, but if you pair them with Dwight Howard, who is 28 years old, it is conceivable to think that by the end of their next contracts, they will be quite diminished from the players they are now. That could leave the Rockets in salary-cap purgatory with contracts that would be difficult to move based on the skill levels of the players.
The one positive note about the future, if the Rockets were to pull off getting both players, is that it would be much easier to attract younger free agents to come and play in Houston with James, Anthony and Howard later in their careers. But would you really want to risk losing Harden, a proven scorer entering his prime, to be able to win titles now in hopes that later on, when their careers are coming to a close, other players are going to want to play with aging veterans that aren’t quite the same players anymore?