Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle

It took about six weeks, but the Rockets finally hired someone to fill their coaching vacancy.

Former Dallas Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas signed a four-year deal to become head coach of Houston, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Silas, who's been in the NBA for 20 seasons now as an assistant, takes over for Mike D'Antoni, who resigned from his role after four seasons. And while there is talent at Silas' disposal, elevating this Rockets team to the next level to make them a contender and no longer a pretender, will be difficult.

The Rockets got bounced in the second round of the playoffs for the second-straight season, losing in five games to the eventual champion, Los Angeles Lakers.

This year's early playoff exit was the final straw for D'Antoni. The 68-year-old told the franchise he wouldn't be returning as head coach a couple days after being eliminated by the Lakers. A month later, Daryl Morey stepped down as general manager, and he's now GM of the 76ers.


His successor is Rafael Stone. The former executive vice president of basketball operations for the Rockets was promoted upon Morey's resignation and has been with the franchise since 2005. Stone's first major move as GM is the signing of Silas.

But now that the Rockets have found their guy, how will they improve their roster for next season? Surely they can't bring back the same squad as last season, right? The Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets and Clippers will be among the best in the west during the 2020-21 campaign, and Houston isn't beating any of those teams as currently constructed.

And with reports that the 2020-21 NBA season will begin as soon as Dec. 22, they'll need to move quickly if they haven't been already. But now that the Rockets have a new general manager and coach, let's focus on how they can maximize James Harden's prime before it's too late.

Trade Russ

Hear me out: Russell Westbrook is a really good player. His athleticism, finishing ability, post-up game and one-man fast-breaks are impressive as hell. But he can't make threes at a consistent rate, he makes terrible decisions late in games and he's an average defender.

Oh, and he can't be on the floor when Harden is. It just doesn't work. LeBron James and company brought that to light in the bubble. The Beard needs spacing around him, and spacing only happens when there's shooters on the floor. Russ doesn't have that in his bag.

Last season, the former MVP Westbrook shot just 26% from three. In the playoffs, that number fell to 24%. In 57 regular season games (bubble seeding games not included), he averaged 27.2 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per contest. In eight playoff games, his scoring output dropped dramatically to just 18 points a game to go along with seven rebounds and 4.6 assists. The Lakers were daring him to shoot from the perimeter, and it paid off, as the Rockets point guard went 7-of-27 on such attempts.

If I'm the Rockets general manager, I'm looking to acquire a stud defensive big man who can rebound and protect the paint-or, a big man who can stretch the floor and be a perimeter threat. I've created some sample trade packages::

In this deal, the Rockets get versatile center Nikola Vucevic, who averaged nearly 20 points and 11 rebounds a game last season. He shot 34% from deep and is a quality passer, having recorded nearly four assists in 32 minutes a night.

Vucevic would give Houston a much-needed big man to battle against centers in the West like Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert and more. Point guard Markelle Fultz could be used as a sixth man for Houston, giving them a scorer and playmaker off the bench. The Magic would get two star players, who also happen to be former UCLA teammates, and likely a pick or two, and they can finally start Mo Bamba and give him a chance to develop. For Cleveland, they dump Love's contract and get two quality starters.

Trade scenario No. 2:

Houston would likely have to include picks in this trade also, in whatever year they still have some. But Kevin Love brings rebounding, shooting, finishing and passing to the Rockets' front court. He's averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds on 37% 3-point shooting so far in his career and won a title with the 2016 Cavs. Collin Sexton would give the bench a scoring punch when Harden is off the floor, and he loves to push the ball in transition which is optimal for Houston's shooters.

Now, if Stone and Silas want to hang on to Westbrook and run it back, there are some notable free agent targets they should consider this offseason.

Free Agents

Power Serge

The first player Houston should be looking at is Serge Ibaka. An 11-year NBA veteran, Ibaka is an unrestricted free agent coming off a superb season. In 55 games, the 31-year-old averaged 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds on 51% shooting and 39% 3-point shooting. That's pretty good for a near seven-footer who records 2.1 blocks per game in his career.

Ibaka would give the Rockets floor spacing, rebounding, defensive ability and a PNR threat at the center position — something they need if they want to compete with the big dogs in the west. He also might be willing to come on a bargain deal if he gets a big role and a chance to add a second championship ring to his collection.

Hold the Kardashian

Cleveland is likely going to re-sign Andre Drummond after acquiring the former Detroit Piston via trade last season. This means Tristan Thompson will presumably test free agent, and the Rockets should give him a look. The nine-year veteran is just 29-years-old and recorded 12 points, 10 rebounds and a block a game in 2019-20.

Thompson isn't an outside threat, but he did make 9 of his 23 attempts in 57 games. Thompson, like Ibaka, is also an NBA champion, having won a title with the 2016 Cavs. He can match PJ Tucker's front-court toughness and at 6-foot-9 and 254 pounds, he can battle with both power forwards and centers in the league.

Marc It down

Despite previous rumors that Marc Gasol was heading home to play in Spain, he isn't. Not yet, anyways. But how much he has left in the tank is another question. Gasol is 35-years-old and on the back end of his career. Last season, he played just 44 games, averaging 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 43% shooting. He did shoot 39% from the perimeter, however. If the 7-foot Spaniard wants to play in the NBA for a little longer, Houston could get him on a low-cost deal that could result in high production. The numbers aren't in his favor, but Gasol can still play and provides floor spacing and great passing ability at the center spot.


Houston has plenty of options this offseason, but it won't have much time to make the necessary changes before the season begins. Hiring a new coach a step forward, now the Rockets need to decide if Westbrook is in their future plans, and even Harden. Shams Charania reported the Sixers are interested in acquiring the 2017-18 MVP. Whether he's actually dealt remains to be seen.

Steph Curry has came back from injury with one of his best seasons as a pro

Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

As we're just over a week away from seeing the new play-in format the NBA has decided to go with this season, it means that teams are vying to be in the top 10 in their respective conferences to keep their postseason dreams alive.

We have seen LeBron James make public statements opposing the new format even though it was unanimously approved by the NBA Board of Governors last year. It's understandable that James would have negative feelings about the new format as his Lakers have struggled throughout the season as both him and superstar teammate, Anthony Davis, have dealt with injuries which have caused them to miss significant time.

Keep reading... Show less

Cole Irvin is making waves on the west coast for the Oakland A's

Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Baseball is a game of hot streaks and slumps, and as a fantasy baseball manager it's sometimes difficult to know when to part with someone on your roster to take a chance on someone new.

Here we'll examine three players you may want to consider moving on from if you have them rostered, and provide three potential replacements for them. Just like in real baseball, sometimes you have to make the tough moves in order to win. But if you don't know what the right moves are to make then you just end up looking like the Pittsburgh Pirates of your fantasy league.

Here's some advice for you so you don't become the Pirates of your league.


First Up

Cole Irvin Oakland A's SP (30% Rostered in Yahoo)

Irvin hasn't allowed more than two runs in the past four starts and will carry a 3.09 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 34/5 strikeout to walk ratio heading into his next one against Tampa Bay this weekend. To put how effective Irvin has been into perspective, he's averaging nearly a strikeout per inning while only .1 walk per inning.

Even if Irvin comes back down to earth a little, now is the time to pick him up while he's riding this hot streak. He is coming off a game against the hard-hitting Blue Jays where we saw him set his career-high in strikeouts with nine over eight innings. Take into consideration he has three quality starts (out of six) and his most recent loss was to the Rays who he sees again on Saturday. In that last appearance against Tampa he went six innings, striking out eight, allowed only two runs and earned a quality start in a loss.

If you're looking for a long term option at starting pitcher, Irvin presents a great opportunity to snag a hidden gem off waivers but don't expect him to last much longer if he puts in another strong performance against the Rays on Saturday.


Keep reading... Show less

Oshae Brissett

AP Photo

Who needs an Avengers incorporated ESPN broadcast when the real nerd-sports crossover is right here?

Welcome to the final round of the basketball fantasy season. You're either in the championship or you've decided that you wanted to set your lineups early and actually enjoy watching basketball.

In any case, you need to fill your rosters and we have the players you need to look out for on those waiver wires.

Booms

Oshae Brissett Guard/Forward Indiana Pacers

You'd be excused for not knowing who Oshae Brissett was before this week. He went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft and started his professional career in the NBA G League. Now, he is making a name for himself in Indianapolis.

Last week, the former Syracuse forward averaged 16 points, made three three-pointers, 10.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and four blocks. With multiple Pacers players fighting injuries, Brissett should have plenty of opportunities to prove he can be a consistent contributor in the final stretch of the NBA season.

Ricky Rubio Point Guard Minnesota Timberwolves

Much like the Timberwolves, it has been an objectively bad statistical year for the Rubio. Also much like the Timberwolves, even he can have a span of success. Rubio didn't provide a ton in any category this past week, but he did average a solid 10.5 points, 1.8 made threes, four rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.8 steals and 0.8 turnovers.

Rubio may have had a good week, but even his good week isn't much in terms of massive contributions. He may be high on last week's rankings, but he isn't worth the pick-up unless you're really desperate for steals and assists.

Isaiah Stewart Forward/Center Detroit Pistons

Stewart goes back-to-back on the list despite his scoring numbers dropping. In three games last week, Stewart scored 11 points on 53.8 percent shooting, 7.7 rebounds, one steal and 3.3 blocks.

While minutes volatility is still a fear with any Pistons player, Stewart has shown that he can contribute in four or more categories for another week. Pick him up for the rest of the season if you can.

Saddiq Bey Small Forward Detroit Pistons

Bey may still be figuring out how to be successful in the league, but at least he can score like a seasoned vet. In three games last week, he averaged 17 points, four made threes, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

He's still a liability in terms of accuracy (39.5 percent from the field last week), but if you need scoring and rebounding, there aren't a ton of other options on the waiver.

Busts

Dillon Brooks Guard/Forward Memphis Grizzlies

The former Duck has developed into a consistent scorer for the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he doesn't provide much else. Last week, he averaged 17.5 points, but only managed to average 1.8 made threes, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.8 steals.

He may not provide much in fantasy, but Memphis is fighting hard to stay in the playoff picture. Brooks will have plenty of chances to keep up his scoring numbers so if that's something you require, he is a great option to give you a boost.

Duncan Robinson Guard/Forward Miami Heat

Shooters in fantasy basketball are DCEU movies: Sure, you'll get a Snyder cut of "Justice League" or "Wonder Woman," but you have to wade through the other travesties to really appreciate them. Duncan Robinson's last week was "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice"-esque.

In four games, Robinson averaged three made three-pointers but only 10.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists. People aren't picking up Robinson for his other stats, but if he's not scoring or shooting at an elite level, he's a tough pickup at best.

Danilo Gallinari Forward Atlanta Hawks

Gallinari's up and down year hit another valley last week when he averaged 10.3 points on 37.9 percent shooting, 1.3 made threes, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

With Kevin Huerter and Bodgan Bogdanovic to compete with for minutes, anything consistent from the Italian baller can't be counted on moving forward.

Delon Wright Guard/Forward Sacramento Kings

Wright was making the most of his minutes in Detroit but since he was traded to Sacramento, his lack of opportunity has been frustrating for anyone who manages him. In four games last week, he averaged 10 points, one made three, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals.

If you are holding out hope that Wright will step up in the finals weeks of the season, I have a monorail I think you'd be interested in.