The ticking time bomb in Houston might have just gone off, as the Rockets made a major trade Wednesday night.
Houston has traded Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall and a first-round draft pick.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news.
The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that it's a 2023 protected first-rounder.
From the Warriors' perspective, this is a fantastic development. Though the Westbrook-James Harden pairing certainly wasn't perfect, there's no doubt that Westbrook currently is a superior player to Wall, and that the Rockets are now a weaker team for the time being. That alone should improve Golden State's chances of making the playoffs this coming season.
And, the weakening might not be over yet.
The Rockets already traded Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers, and Austin Rivers signed with the New York Knicks in free agency. They signed Christian Wood to a three-year, $41 million contract, but that would seem to go directly against owner Tilman Fertitta's reported desire to lower payroll. And unless they trade Harden -- who reportedly has interest in being moved -- there aren't many ways for Houston to accomplish that goal.
Well, that is, unless they trade Eric Gordon and/or P.J. Tucker.
The Warriors certainly could use some more perimeter shooting, and Gordon would be capable of providing it, but his $16.9 million salary for the upcoming season rules him out as an option for Golden State. Tucker, on the other hand, certainly is attainable -- and perhaps more so now that Westbrook has been jettisoned.
Tucker will make just less than $8 million this coming season -- a salary that comfortably fits within the Warriors' $9.3 million disabled player exception (DPE), which they were granted by the league as a result of Klay Thompson's season-ending Achilles injury. With the DPE, the Warriors can sign a free agent or acquire a player via trade who's on the last year of his contract and whose salary is equal to or less than that value. Tucker, as it so happens, is entering the final year of his contract.
The Warriors currently have one open spot on their 15-man roster, and they're unsure if it will be filled by the time the season begins. General manager Bob Myers is taking a wait-and-see approach with the final spot, leaving open the possibility that they'll fill it using the DPE at some point during the season.
There isn't a logical fit for the DPE on the current free-agent market, and the Warriors are better off waiting to use it until a worthwhile opportunity presents itself. And given their already massive luxury tax bill, the Warriors likely will only use the DPE to acquire a player who significantly improves the roster.
The Warriors are wise to be patient in their perusal of potential acquisitions using the DPE, but they should be ready to jump if and when the right fit becomes available. And along those lines, they should be calling the Rockets early and often about Tucker, as he likely is the best player Golden State conceivably could add.
The Rockets are a worse team today than they were yesterday, but it still feels like the powder keg has yet to fully blow. The Warriors should make a full-court press for Tucker to simultaneously improve themselves and further hasten Houston's demise.