Daryl Morey is stepping down as the Houston Rockets general manager, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, raising questions about the team’s future and if more significant chances are on the horizon. 

Morey is gone after another playoff disappointment, leaving a team that has likely missed its championship window. Could James Harden be next?

Morey traded for Harden just prior to the 2012-2013 season. Harden became an All-Star in his first season with the Rockets and turned into a perennial All-NBA player the following year.

One MVP award, three second-place MVP finishes and three consecutive scoring titles for Harden have not resulted in a championship. The Rockets haven’t even reached the NBA Finals in the Morey-Harden era, blowing their best chance in 2018. Houston missed 27 consecutive three-pointers in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals in a loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Without Kevin Durant, the Warriors eliminated the Rockets in a six-game second-round series last year. Morey swapped Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Harden and Westbrook were embarrassed by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of this year’s playoffs, losing four straight games by 51 total points. 

Head coach Mike D’Antoni left the team after four years with the Rockets.

Houston won’t be among the top contenders for the 2021 NBA Finals. The Lakers are favored to repeat. The Warriors and LA Clippers are thought to be ahead of the Rockets. The Denver Nuggets might have a better chance than Houston to contend in the West.

There have been no reports that the Rockets will explore moving Harden, but the Morey news has ignited speculation that a trade could be looming.

 

 

 

 

Harden has three years left on his contract worth around $133 million. The guard can opt-out of his deal and become a free agent after two years. 

The Rockets will be hard-pressed to build a contender around Harden within the next couple of seasons. Houston doesn’t have much in the way of draft capital or promising young players to trade for an impact player. Westbrook has one of the worst contracts in the league, giving the Rockets little flexibility.

Plenty of teams would likely jump at the chance to trade valuable assets in exchange for Harden. It’s not hard to see why there’s a belief that Houston might decide to unload their best player.

James Harden Houston Rockets James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 12, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images