At least in the immediate aftermath, it looks as if the Houston Rockets have lost the trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
Harden was traded to Brooklyn in January after a tumultuous few months with the organization. The Rockets have struggled to win games ever since.
They even dropped 20 straight at one point, a streak that wasn’t snapped until earlier this month.
While Harden’s presence in Houston could have potentially kept them in contention for a playoff spot — with just 13 wins so far this season, that’s almost certainly not possible anymore — Rockets general manager Rafael Stone has no regrets about the trade.
“I think we felt at the time that we did the best deal for the franchise possible,” Stone said, via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “Obviously, that's my job, so I did it. Particularly given the types of things we got back, yeah it feels like you can’t possibly know how you did for multiple years — like three, five, something like that.
“But I feel good about it. I do feel good about it … I would for sure, 100%, do that deal again.”
Rockets don't need 'wholesale tank strategy'
In Stone’s defense, he does have plenty of draft picks available to him now.
The Rockets received the Nets’ first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026 in the deal, and also landed another first round pick in 2022 from Cleveland. They also got four unprotected first-round pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027.
By all accounts, between Harden’s trade, and one last week that sent Victor Oladipo to the Miami Heat, the Rockets are in a full rebuild mode.
While it may be tough for the immediate future, Stone is playing the long game. He said Monday that he doesn’t want this trade evaluated until 2030, even though he doesn’t expect it to take that long or be as brutal for fans as that may sound.
“A lot of what I said about being in a position maybe to not have to be bad [to rebuild], there’s some other things that we’ve done too, but it’s primarily that deal that’s allowed us to say, ‘Hey, we want to compete on a slightly quicker timeframe,’” he said, via ESPN. “We’re not going to go down this path of intentionally trying to lose games for years on end.”
As they currently have the third-worst record in the NBA, Houston could be in a position to land a high draft pick in the lottery — should it not lose that to Oklahoma City, which has the right to exchange a pick from Houston if it doesn’t finish inside the top four.
That pick, Stone said, isn’t critical to the Rockets’ success. He’s happy with the young group he has in place now, and thinks they can be beneficial to speed the process along.
“I think in terms of the young players in this roster, we do have kind of a young core, along with John [Wall] and Eric [Gordon], a young core that we really like; Christian [Wood] and Jae’Sean [Tate] and KP (Kevin Porter Jr.] and KJ [Martin], all guys under contract going forward,” he said, via USA Today. “We like those bets. We think we’ve seen growth this year.
“We obviously want to add to them, but I don’t think we need to do a wholesale tank strategy.”
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