There’s a misconception about rebuilding in the NBA that has carried into most fanbases: star players are always available. The Houston Rockets are a team that could be categorized as rebuilding and the fan base knows this.
When you look at the NBA over the last decade, it’s not hard to see where the misconception comes from. We’ve just exited an abnormal period of star movement and it’s given off the illusion that if you just wait, there’s another gettable star player around the corner. And while there’s usually one major star available every year, they aren’t necessarily available for every team.
This is partly why Ben Simmons is a player that has become undervalued among NBA fans. Simmons is one of the best defensive players in basketball, he’s an exceptional passer, and he’s fantastic in transition. He obviously has his flaws (namely shooting), but those flaws have come to unfairly define just how good he is as a basketball player. Understanding that he has become an undervalued asset, the Houston Rockets should be among the chief suitors for his talents right now.
Ben Simmons in 2020-21:
58.4% True Shooting
The Rockets obviously had a chance to acquire Simmons when they were shopping around James Harden, but opted against it. At the time, the Brooklyn Nets package made more sense long-term for them. However, it seems they can theoretically get Simmons at a discount right now.
Simmons’ last playoff performance has soured many on the idea of him as a franchise player in the NBA, but Houston isn’t looking for that with him. The Rockets are likely going to take their stabs at franchise players through the draft as they have already with Jalen Green.
The idea of Simmons as a miscast basketball player isn’t new, but it does bear repeating. He’s 6-foot-11, can’t shoot the basketball, and is still asked to play point guard. Obviously, things may have been different if he were drafted on a team without Joel Embiid. However, even if Embiid and Simmons weren’t on the same team, point guard always felt like a bizarre position for him.
What if Simmons’ next team re-imagined him as a big man with guard skills instead of a big guard who can’t shoot?
Because the Rockets drafted Green to be their franchise centerpiece, they’ll need to acquire strong playmakers and defenders to compliment his skillset. Simmons checks both of those boxes in a way that’s really difficult to find on the open market. If the price is right, he’s also young enough (25-years-old as of two months ago) and on long enough team control for Houston to slot into their long-term core.
The Rockets have contracts like Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, Daniel Theis, and David Nwaba that are team friendly and helpful basketball players. If the 76ers aren’t interested in any of those players, Houston would need to find a third team to facilitate the trade. They’re a creative enough front office to find that third team.
Perhaps the Rockets are hesitant to trade their own first-round picks, but they have draft picks coming in from Brooklyn and Milwaukee over the next several years. Weighing how good those picks are as opposed to Ben Simmons is obviously difficult, but a necessary exercise. They also have young players in Kevin Porter Jr., Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher. Those players should have the value of first rounders.
Even if Houston feels like they can’t realistically land Simmons or that the price may be too high, you can’t just not pursue a player this good when he’s on the market. From a team construction standpoint, he fits cleanly next to the theoretical franchise centerpiece in Jalen Green and he’s probably better than his league-wide perception right now.
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