Houston (CBS Houston) – On Tuesday, the Houston Rockets acquired scorer extraordinaire Lou Williams from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for (the contract of) Corey Brewer and the Rockets’ 2017 first round pick. It was a move that has many in Houston feeling hopeful, excited about the postseason to come. Williams is a perennial sixth man of the year contender, despite having played for five teams in twelve seasons. He can score the basketball in a variety of ways, can create his own shot, and when he’s on, he can be almost unstoppable. He’s averaging 18.7 points per game this season, a career high. Thursday night, Williams poured in 27 points in his team debut, a 129-99 victory over New Orleans.
Despite all of the above, despite liking the player, I loathe the trade.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is clearing going “all in” with this team, pushing his poker chips to the center of the table. Yet to this discerning eye, they’re no closer to winning the title today than they were yesterday. In the end, you know what they say; “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that ring.”
Last night, I took to Twitter to express my sentiment on trade deadline day, highlighting Houston’s acquisition. I willingly pushed send on the following: “If
#Rockets don’t ultimately win a title w Lou, isn’t the trade a fail? 1st’s at ANY slot are your future. I don’t value “Close but no cigar.”
The response was overwhelming(ly negative).
Anyone sticking out their neck to criticize the home team can expect a heavy dose of venom. Last night was no different. From all angles, the dissension rained down with many predictable retorts. “What, do you just want the Rockets to give up?” “A late first round pick is worth nothing!” “LMAO” and the crying emoji made appearances as well.
The truth is, I actually admire Daryl Morey. I don’t always care his scathing defenses of criticism, but I love his gutsy mentality, his intestinal fortitude. I respect his obsession with bringing Houston a winner and delivering a superstar out of thin air a few offseasons ago in the form of James Harden, soon-to-be crowned MVP of the league. This season has been a delight to watch, and much of the credit for the unexpected surge in quality of play will rightfully be credited to Morey. I generally feel comfortable in the direction of the Rockets under his watch, with this trade serving as one of the exceptions.
I’m also proponent of going all in to win if the team is one piece away from the title. I believe the Texans are, and thus I fully support a run at Tony Romo. Does Morey believe the same is true for the Rockets? If so, how? Does he see something the rest of us are missing? The reality is Houston is only closer to being competitive with San Antonio, NOT beating Golden State. The Warriors have four stars, the Rockets one; perhaps 1.5 on a good day.
First round picks are golden tickets to your future. This year’s NBA Draft is expected to be the deepest in many years, and the Rockets’ selection, presently slotted at #27, could net a valuable contributor or another young piece via trade that could help this team for years to come. In the last five drafts, the like of Nikola Jokic, Draymond Green, Jae Crowder, and Houston’s own Montrezl Harrell were selected at pick #27 or later. If you do your homework or can develop a track record like the Spurs, quality can be found there.
Seeing as how the Rockets are still no closer to beating the Warriors, I’d have opted to hold onto my assets. Lou Williams is a player whose effectiveness is predicated on quickness. Remember how quickly Allen Iverson fell off a cliff when his wound up on a milk carton? Williams will be 31 when next season starts, and it’s hard for me to envision a 6’1 shooting guard maintaining the current level of play for more than one or two additional seasons. I make this trade for a 23-27 year old Lou, but not today.
The Rockets have Williams under contract through the end of next season. They effectively rented a player to attempt to beat the Warriors, only sadly, that isn’t likely to happen this year, next year, or any in the foreseeable future. Sitting in Morey’s chair, I’d struggle to see the logic in mortgaging my future for a short term fix.
Magic Johnson 1, Morey 0.