NBA: Desperate Houston Rockets might be committing franchise suicide
Many a sports team’s management has made decisions, desperate decisions, in the name of immediate on-field or court performance or contending for a title in a short period of time. Sometimes it works. Other times it goes really poorly.
The NBA has seen its fair share of franchise-killing deals. The Nets dealt first round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry and are still paying for that choice. Now, the Houston Rockets may be poised to make a second bad decision since July 1st, 2018.
The Houston Rockets had a splendid 2017-18 season finishing the regular season with a 65-17 record. They also pushed Golden State to a seven-game NBA Western Conference Final, in 2018. Therefore, without question, their GM, Daryl Morey, saw an opportunity to load up the already potent Rockets team with more weapons.
Perhaps his first mistake was signing Carmelo Anthony to a $2.4 million contract, on August 13th, 2018. While it is a one year deal, it's also Carmelo Anthony. Drafted 3rd overall back in the loaded 2003 NBA draft, Carmelo was one of the sure shot stars of that draft.
While he has probably put up Hall of Fame numbers, Carmelo has been a franchise killer. When he first starred as a rookie for the Denver Nuggets in the 2003-04 season he led a franchise turnaround as the team finished the year 43-39. With Carmelo, the Nuggets also had four consecutive 50-win seasons but could not get out of the first round of the playoffs.
During his time with the Nuggets, coach George Karl was frustrated with the lack of defense and rebounding from Carmelo and in a recent memoir referred to Carmelo as “a user”, and someone who would not “share the spotlight”. Coach Karl went on to say, “He really lit my fuse. With his low demand of himself on defense. He had no commitment to the hard work of stopping the other guy”. This is harsh criticism from a coach who also claimed that Carmelo was “the best offensive player I have ever coached”.
Carmelo was traded to a resurgent Knicks team on February 22, 2011. The Knicks made it to the 2011, 12 and 13 playoffs, making it to the second round in 2013. Carmelo’s tenure in New York was disappointing after that. In bringing him to New York, the Knicks traded away young rising talent like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and first round picks in 2014 and 2016. The 2016 pick turned into Jamal Murray for the Nuggets.
In comparison to the Nets deal, the common denominator with the Knicks deal for Carmelo Anthony is one team killing its future for the here and now. The problem being the here and now is not a guarantee. So, while the signing of a player like Anthony is one thing at $2.4 million for one year, Daryl Morey’s proposal to try and put the Rockets over the top for presumably this coming NBA playoffs is suicide.
As of late last week, he proposed a package including four first-round draft picks for Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler. Butler averages 16.5 pts/g on 11.8fg/g and has played in 43 playoff games. He can shoot, score and defend. It's how he interacts with his teammates, handles adversity and losing and the demands he makes to be traded when he is not happy that are a concern.
During an October 10th, 2018 training camp, Butler went after teammates Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and even coach Tom Thibodeau and others in hopes of forcing his way out of town via a trade.
The Houston Rockets need to consider traded first-round picks cannot be in consecutive years but up to seven years out, and if the return is flawed, unproductive, or flat out fails, the Rockets and their fans will be hurting for years to come.
Like Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler is a frustrating potential franchise killer. He was drafted in the first round, 30th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, but has played more like someone who should have been a lottery pick.
However, it’s the intangibles that make Jimmy Butler toxic. He’s self-absorbed, and puts himself above his teammates - as he and Dwyane Wade did in Chicago in 2016. He wasn’t happy in Chicago after they cleared the decks in the 2016 offseason to centre the team around him, so he was traded in the summer of 2017 to Minnesota.
Once again, in less than two years, Butler wants out of Minnesota. How do you satisfy the insatiable? A black hole consumes everything; just as Carmelo Anthony cost New York its youth and future, this proposed deal for Jimmy Butler could do the same to the Rockets as the deal for Garnett, Pierce and Terry did to the Nets back in 2013.
At the moment, the Timberwolves have countered the Houston offer requesting Eric Gordon be included in any trade package. This might mean Houston mortgages less of the future for a splendid talent, in Jimmy Butler, who may not gel with their team’s chemistry.
Currently, the Timberwolves are 3-4 with the disruptive Butler, and the Western Conference Finalist, Houston Rockets are 1-4. Houston is already struggling to integrate a high volume shooter in Anthony at 19.2 fga/g and a scoring average of 24.1pts/g for his career. With scorers like Chris Paul, James Harden and Anthony already playing huge offensive roles, integrating another scorer like Jimmy Butler won’t be easy.
Perhaps the Rockets are desperate, but it is a bad place to be in to make a decision to sell your franchise’s future.