It’s been a tough offseason, to say the least, for the Houston Rockets.
General Manager Daryl Morey played a high-stakes game on the NBA free agency roulette wheel, looking to bring a third superstar to Houston, but the ball did not bounce in the Rockets’ favor.
It’s hard not to feel a sinking feeling, though. Not only did the Rockets not land any of this offseason’s elite free agents (including the last-minute switcheroo by Miami forward Chris Bosh), but the gamble also resulted in the loss of Houston fan favorites Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin.
Rockets guard James Harden received some negative reaction from many in the media, as well as his former teammate Parsons, when he gave his assessment of the team’s offseason.
“Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets,” Harden said. “The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.”
It may be a coldhearted way to describe the situation, but Harden is also right.
In Parsons’ case, while he played a large role, he was a role player for the Rockets. He was a solid, though not elite, scorer and shooter as he played a supplemental role to Harden — often scoring in spurts but never as the go-to guy in big situations.
If Parsons is anything more than merely a decent scorer and feels he merits superstar status, the Dallas Mavericks have given him 46 million reasons to prove it during the next three seasons. He’ll also have to prove that ability while playing with Dallas’ two top scorers — ball-dominators Dirk Nowitski and Monte Ellis.
The piece replacing Parsons, veteran Trevor Ariza, is an intriguing move for the Rockets in that he provides a major upgrade in an area of need (defense), although he falls short of Parsons in scoring ability and upside. Ariza will not do much more than pop a few 3-pointers, occasionally go to the basket and stay out of Harden’s and Howard’s way on offense.
Lin, a streaky and diverse scorer, provided a nice offensive spark off the bench as a ‘tweener guard for the Rockets last year, although he would often make some boneheaded plays and was subpar on defense.
The pieces replacing Lin are even more intriguing.
Rookie Nick Johnson has looked like a freak of nature in summer league play, appearing in SportsCenter highlights multiple times with highlight-reel dunks, and he also notched a triple-double.
He may be unpolished and unproven, but the raw athleticism should make him an interesting X-factor.
Also filling Lin’s void will be sharpshooting Troy Daniels, who was a playoff hero after barely playing in the regular season.
His role is pretty simple, but it’s one every team needs — be money from behind the 3-point line.
While the failure to hit the jackpot was a great disappointment to many Rockets fans, the always-calculating Morey really walked away from the table closer to breaking even than to losing his shirt.