The Houston Rockets essentially declared themselves open for trade business earlier this week, but is there any sort of deal to be made with the Boston Celtics?
ESPN reported that Houston general manager Daryl Morey has made his entire roster available in trade talks with hopes of reshaping a Rockets team that hasn’t been able to get over the hump out west.
Despite the minuscule chance that the Rockets would actually move James Harden, the Celtics will call about him, even if just for due diligence. Danny Ainge has a longstanding lust for Chris Paul, but probably not the one who’s set to make more than $1 million for each of his 34 years of age next season (Paul will earn a staggering $38.5 million in 2019-20).
Players like P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon are intriguing, particularly on manageable money, but unless the Rockets decide to embrace a youth movement, the Celtics don’t have the win-now assets to necessarily find that sort of deal.
Here, however, is one intriguing scenario in which the teams could potentially do business. If Kyrie Irving elects to sign elsewhere this summer, the Celtics might be more willing to embrace their own youth movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean a rebuild, but it’s a longer path to Finals contention if you throw the keys to the car to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Under that scenario, Al Horford might be more intrigued by win-now possibilities than sticking around to see if Boston’s 2018 playoff core — albeit with a now-healthy Gordon Hayward — could find that old Kyrie-less magic. He might alert Boston that he’d prefer to play for a more surefire contender, but is willing to help the team recoup assets in that process.
Horford could either opt into the $30.1 million final year of his contract and be dealt to Houston in a deal that could bring back, say, Clint Capela and assets. Or Horford could opt out and the teams could try to find a workable sign-and-trade in which Horford still gets longer-term security and a chance to chase a ring.
It’s still a long shot, but remember that Horford was mighty intrigued by the Rockets before he elected to sign with Boston in the summer of 2016. The Rockets brought Harden, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Clyde Drexler to their July sales pitch with Horford and made him strongly consider the team.
“It was a privilege,” Horford said in 2016. “[Olajuwon] and Clyde were there, and my dad went to high school here in Houston, and he was pushing Houston hard. Hakeem, to him, was a big deal, and for me to be able to talk with him and spend some time. At the end of the day, just looking at the future and everything, I felt like here in Boston was going to be a better fit for me in the long run.”
If Irving departs and Horford’s future gets murkier, the Rockets might just be a team that’s worth talking to more.
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