Being a Houston sports fan has been frustrating for the past twenty plus years. The Houston Astros have yet to win a championship and were swept in the 2005 World Series by the Chicago White Sox. The young Houston Texans franchise has yet to reach a conference championship game and have yet to establish a proven franchise quarterback long term. Finally, the Houston Rockets have not won a title since 1995. With most of its fan base too young to remember the glory days of 1994 and 1995, the Houston Rockets looked to increase their chances at an NBA title by trading a first round pick and a plethora of role players and young talent to the Los Angeles Clippers to pair veteran point guard Chris Paul with MVP runner-up James Harden. With news breaking that Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has officially put the franchise up for sale, the dynamics behind the true purpose of this already controversial trade should be called into question.
In his first two years of his ownership, Leslie Alexander led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back rings starting in 1994. Since then, the Rockets have yet to return to the NBA finals and have a single Division title. The Chris Paul deal has already been heavily debated because the ball-dominant point guard joins another commanding ball handler in James Harden. Some could make the argument that the Cleveland Cavaliers have had much success with two floor generals Kyrie Irving and Lebron James, but others argue that James Harden’s offensive lethality will be suppressed by Chris Paul’s career role as the primary ball handler of his team. Can they work together? That has yet to be seen, but most NBA fans would agree that they are still ways away from beating the Golden State Warriors even if they somehow added Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. If this deal didn’t get the Rockets considerably closer to likely facing Lebron in the 2018 NBA Finals, then was its purpose?
SFE’s Faiz breaks down his top 5 free agency signings.
Unfortunately for many Houston fans like me, the answer may be all too obvious. This trade may have been a move conducted by Leslie Alexander to maximize the value of his franchise as it hits the open market. Rockets gave up 2015 (Sam Dekker) and 2018 first round draft picks, an elite defending guard in Patrick Beverly, a scoring role player in Lou Williams, DeAndre Liggins, and 3 young players all for Chris Paul. At the start of the 2018 season, the Rockets are only likely to have a single homegrown first round draft pick on the roster (Clint Capela) after trading much of its young talent. The future of the Rockets is in flux, and it is not likely as currently constructed that they will even have a decent chance against the reigning NBA Champions or the King that sits unchallenged in the Eastern Conference.
Alexander says the sale will not be rushed, but there is a huge market for the 7th highest valued franchise in the NBA (via Forbes Magazine). It is the number one followed team in Asia because of Hall of Famer Yao Ming, which draws interest from the likes of Chinese entrepreneurs. The Houston Rockets future may be more unknown than ever before.