The Houston Rockets needed a big man in this year's playoffs, clearly getting outrebounded and completely beat up inside the paint by the likes of Anthony Davis and LeBron James. The Rockets small ball system did not work out, mainly because there was too much pressure on James Harden and Russell Westbrook to do everything on offense. After losing 4-1 in the second round of the playoffs, the head coach Mike D'Antoni and later GM Daryl Morey both stepped down.
This means the small ball system is likely over, and the Rockets need to surround James Harden with appropriate talent to contend next year. Joel Embiid, superstar center for the 76ers, has been reported to be a main target for the Rockets. Hoping to recreate the Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming era, the Rockets hope to pair Joel Embiid and James Harden for a chance to win it all. This means that every single player on the roster, besides Harden, of course, is available for trade.
Here is why the Blockbuster deal makes sense for both the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.
Trade Package: Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Robert Covington, Danuel House for Joel Embiid, Al Horford
Rockets Address Their Problem With A Superstar Duo
The Houston Rockets are a good team, but they are lacking in key areas. As shown in this year's playoffs, the Rockets struggled against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round and barely scraped by in 7 games. They were extremely shorthanded against the Los Angeles Lakers with a rusty Russell Westbrook and also the absence of Danuel House, and ended up losing in 5 games. A host of problems become apparent, such as inconsistent defense and too much isolation play.
But by far the biggest problem with Houston is their lack of size. They traded Clint Capela for Robert Covington last year, opting to go micro ball without any centers in the lineup. They were great offensively, but they struggled to get rebounds or defend the paint and this came into play against the likes of Anthony Davis and LeBron James with the Lakers. If the Rockets want a center, Joel Embiid can be available.
He is arguably the most talented center in the game and had a strong season averaging 23.0 PPG and 11.6 RPG. Embiid gives the Rockets another superstar alongside James Harden who can score the ball and run the offense, except he does it on the inside. The Rockets can finally diversify their offense instead of hoping Harden does everything. A lineup with Harden and Embiid can be complemented with any 3-and-D role players who play hard and play around the stars. Russell Westbrook is a great player, but Joel Embiid brings more efficiency and a much more diversified offense than Russ does with Harden.
While Al Horford had a poor season overall, as his numbers were down across the board at 11.9 PPG and 6.8 RPG, he is still an experienced player who gives Houston size and defense. He can also hit the outside shot, so it won't be entirely old school play with 2 bigs. The Rockets will probably change their system now that D'Antoni and Morey are out, so they can do a ton worse than bringing superstar Joel Embiid with Al Horford to the team.
The Philadelphia 76ers Build Around Ben Simmons
The Philadelphia 76ers had a horrific end to a frustrating season. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, although Ben Simmons was out for the postseason with injury. Still, Embiid and Tobias Harris should have been enough to at least get one win as they were outplayed on both ends in 4 straight games. This has led to a conversation that Embiid and Simmons simply don't work with each other, as they are both men who like to have space to operate inside. Not to mention, Horford is making max money yet also clogs the paint for Simmons.
With the signing of accomplished head coach Doc Rivers, the Sixers are right back in the mix in the East. But this time, it could be without Joel Embiid. Ben Simmons is a generational talent in terms of his overall play, and he is a special playmaker that can be a franchise player under Doc Rivers. The Sixers can switch things up tremendously, by first putting Ben Simmons in his natural power forward position. He dominates from there, as not only a point forward at times but a guy who can rebound and defend exceptionally well. This will be done to make space for Russell Westbrook. He is a player who pushes the pace more than anybody in the league, and the Sixers will have 2 players who can do that.
Russ averaged 27.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 7.0 APG this season which are MVP numbers. He does this every year, so the Sixers replace Embiid's scoring output immediately. But it doesn't stop there. The Sixers then surround Simmons and Russ with 3 shooters. Gordon shoots 37.0%, Covington 35.6%, and House 36.9% respectively from three. These 3 guys can play big minutes alongside Russ and Harden thanks to their ability to space the floor with shooting and also defend the perimeter. Defensively, the Sixers will be very difficult to score against. Especially if Russ takes a leadership role with the team under Doc Rivers, he can be a massive game-changer on both ends.