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.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

Barry Gossage/Getty Images

In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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