- Only zero.
With the NBA fast approaching next season, the Houston Rockets have some decisions to make about the two superstars and the team around them. After a disappointing loss to the Lakers in last season’s playoffs, Mike D’Anthony dropped out of the game and Houston was at a crossroads. He doubled his efforts to implement a small ball strategy led by Tag Team duo Russell Westbrook and James Harden, or used one of the former MVPs to carry out the reconstruction.
Of course, the solution has more nuances. The Rockets could hold one of their stars with big cards, but continue to play basketball in the same style. However, given the repeated setbacks in recent years after the season and the dismissal of D’Anthony, changes of some kind seem inevitable.
If Houston wants to put things back on hold without sacrificing too much short-term potential, they can trade Westbrook or Harden for a few proven players – and add a little more depth and change to the list while maintaining the core of the team. In this scenario, Westbrook seems a more likely bid, given Harden’s status as a franchise star.
But who can offer the best price for Westbrook’s talent? The Boston Celtics could be a contender. Replacing the Russians with Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart can be a win-win situation, strengthening the Rocket’s already fantastic shooting potential without any loss in the game, while at the same time adding defense and some depth. And Boston would have a former MVP and a veteran who would score a phenomenon in a young team that could use his fire and experience.
Rockets acquire residual power, evacuation and firepower
Kemba Walker is not exactly the best player Russ has ever had in history, but his offensive potential could be even higher. He is an exceptional playmaker, pushing the defense both outward and inward as he poses a greater threat to the environment. He also performed well at both ends of the track and seemed like a great teammate in Boston.
Smart brings with it many of these qualities, but in a younger, less proven packaging. It was a sniper dagger. He’s a defensive force in most positions. And she’s exceptional in high-pressure situations. In this business, rockets wouldn’t lose that much at the front of the line, but they would get an extra advantage with Smart, of which the best years are almost certainly ahead.
The only thing Houston couldn’t get in this particular exchange was the size. Any deviation from D’Anthony’s experiments with small balls is likely to increase rim protection, which the Walker/Smart combination does not necessarily do. However, two big players for the price of an aging star may be just what the Rockets need. Walker could have fulfilled most of Chris Paul’s role in Houston without additional friction due to the differences between Paul and Harden.
Boston Celts Large 4
Westbrook’s immediate inclusion in every team is clear, and Boston would be no different – incredible scoring, finishing and solid versatility. Russ brings intensity with his years of experience, and perhaps that’s exactly what the young Celts of Brad Stevens need to overcome their Eastern conference demons. The only real question is whether Westbrook is worth the price.
Walker is a fantastic player, and this year he seems to have worked much better with the Celtics during his short tenure than Kiri Irving. Yet Kemba wasn’t all the Boston fans they had hoped for. Especially in the preliminaries he experienced considerable failures in the attacking game – the absence of which could have put the Celtics in first place at key moments. Westbrook is less dangerous in the neighborhood, but for any other crime, it’s no worse or better than Kemba.
The big question that arises in this hypothesis is that of intelligence. Although it doesn’t represent the future of the franchise like Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Smart is an important part of modern Celtics and gets better every year. In the clutch moments, it was often smart to make big stops and big moves to get Boston back in the game, and he is by far the most loyal cheater on the team.
Does that mean it’s too precious to be abandoned? Not necessarily. The Celtics don’t lose to strong players, and the Tatum/Crown combination remains the core of the team on both sides. Losing grief may be a success in the Boston junior chemistry class, but it could be worth it if the front office believes Russ can make it to the finals. Westbrook, Tatum, Hayward and Brown would be the worrisome Big Four of the East, and this could be exactly what the Celts were looking for.
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