Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has a plan and a formula for everything, including beating the Golden State Warriors.
While the conventional wisdom is that the Warriors reign over the NBA should butt up against the new decade, Morey is of the mindset that they can be beaten soon.
"They are not unbeatable, Morey told ESPNs Zach Lowe earlier this month. We are used to long odds. If Golden State makes the odds longer, we might up our risk profile and get even more aggressive. We have something up our sleeve."
That something up Moreys sleeve might be another star to play alongside James Harden.
On Wednesday, Marc Stein reported that the Rockets are going to try to land another star player in free agency. Among them Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Paul Millsap.
The first two dont make a ton of sense Harden has established himself as a premier point guard in the NBA, and the Rockets could use help elsewhere. Millsap, whose chances of returning to Atlanta seem to diminish by the day, would be a great fit with Houstons offense and bring some much-needed defensive skill to the Rockets.
But it was the fourth name Stein mentioned that should have Rockets fans buzzing:
Blake Griffin would be a perfect fit in Houston.
First, the financial logistics: The Rockets should have roughly $11.7 million in cap space heading into Julys free-agent period, but by moving some salary via trade the chief chips being Ryan Anderson (three years remaining on deal, average salary $20 million), Lou Williams (one year remaining at $7 million) Patrick Beverley (two years remaining on deal, second year not guaranteed, at $5.27 million per season) the Rockets could create enough cap space to sign a complimentary superstar to play alongside Harden.
Griffin can command a five-year, $177.5 million deal from the Clippers, should he opt to stay in Los Angeles, or a four-year, $131.6 million deal if he heads elsewhere. Thats a lot of money to leave on the table for Griffin, and thats why theres been little discussion of his pending free agency of course hes going back to the Clippers, right?
Well, the wild world of the NBA might be changing that presumption.
The Rockets can move the roughly $20 million they would need to offload to sign Griffin (who would likely sign a 1-and-1 deal, a la LeBron James and Kevin Durant), and the Clippers might not be as hellbent on keeping their core three of DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul and Griffin together.
Paul is going to look elsewhere this offseason San Antonio has been rumored to be a possible landing spot for the point guard, though itwould have to offload salary to sign him as well. The Clippers will have no choice but to sign Paul to a $207 million deal over five years.
That deal, plus DeAndre Jordans $22.6 million salary for next year, will be more than 50 percent of the Clippers salary against the cap next season. Even with Jordans $24 million option (which he would be a fool not to take) for 2018-19, those two contracts alone will make it difficult to be serious players in the 2018 offseason.
Signing Griffin to a market-level deal would make it next to impossible to add Paul George or LeBron James to the fold.
Recent events in Cleveland have made a LeBron to Los Angeles more viable, and the Clippers wouldnt want to leave themselves out of the running for that, would they?
With the possibility of adding George or James looming a year from now, the Clippers have already looked to trade Jordan but so far no biters.
The Clippers think highly of Jordan perhaps too highly but they also know the truth about how he fits on the team in the modern NBA.
Jordan is a pick-and-roll center, but he cant space the floor. Griffin can space the floor well, but hes not a true stretch-4 like Kevin Love built himself into in Cleveland hes still a pick-and-roll 4.
Paul doesnt need two bigswhose key contribution to the Clippers offense is, when you boil it down, the same thing. The Clippers can be a 1-5 pick-and-roll team or a 1-4 pick-and-roll team, but theyve shown they're not going to be both, and seeing as both the 5 and 4 are poised to make big money, you can make an argument to sever ties with one of the two. There's no room for redundancies in this NBA.
The Clippers have already tried to trade Jordan, so far to no avail, but they can also let Griffin walk this summer without penalty.
The Clippers wouldnt be so obvious about it the best play is to offer Griffin a contract that would, theoretically, still let them add James or George in free agency next summer. But thats not a market-value deal.
And signing Griffin to a max contract and then looking to trade him is a dangerous proposition the Clippers brass shouldnt trust their front office to execute without penalty, either. Itd be exceptionally difficult to clear that cap space at next year's trading deadline or before next summer's draft.
But by offering Griffin a short-term deal or less overall money, they could make the Houston option more attractive to the power forward. There wouldnt be that much difference in money and thats not even factoring in Texas lack of state tax against Californias 13.3 percent).
The opportunity to play with the Rockets should be highly attractive to Griffin, as his skill set would almost perfectly suit Houstons offensive style.
Yes, Morey might have to allow for a few midrange jumpers with Griffin, but the 1-4 pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop game with Harden and Griffin would be lethal. Griffin could become an offensive apocalypse in Houston.
With the Rockets, Griffin would play more stretch-5 than in Los Angeles and hed always be the complementary playmaker to Harden, who facilitates all four of histeammates when he's playing. Plus, hed have an equal if not better chance to beat the Warriors in the Western Conference.
Griffin could use a new start as well at least from the outsiders perceptive. Theres a perception that Griffins game has stagnated in L.A. Thats not true hes improved it every year: It was the team that stagnated.
But with his injuries and the baseline problem that he was far too often the odd man out in the Clippers offense, it was easy to make him a scapegoat for L.A.s problems.
In Houston, Griffin would be viewed as a game-changer. Perhaps it wouldnt work with him and Harden perhaps the talent around the two would diminish to the point where adding Blake would be a net-zero (or worse) proposition but the upside stands to be incredible. The "risk profile" is high, but so is the reward.
Its a win for all, save for Griffins checkbook (for now).
Griffin, in an offense that better suits to his inside-out game, could re-introduce himself to the NBA in Houston. He could remind everyone why hes considered a superstar in the league its been a while since we were blinded by his talent.
Houston would benefit, too. The Rockets relied on Harden for nearly 100 percent of their offense in the postseason opponents caught on and the team and Harden faded. AddingGriffin would lessen the load on Harden and expand the Rockets offensive repertoire.
And the Clippers theyd get their salary cap space and a chance to enter the Paul George and LeBron sweepstakes. They might even be able to land both of them if they play their cards just right. For a team that has maxed out with its current crop of players, letting Griffin walk could bring a necessary refresh.
Theres a million or 207 million different ways NBA free agency could go down, but as we approach the new league year, dont count out Blake Griffin to the Rockets. It makes so much sense it might just happen.