Sergio Llull Says "No Thanks" To Rockets, So Now What?
As a Rockets fan, I am going to ride the "In Morey We Trust" thing until it bucks us. He turned nothing into James Harden and Dwight Howard, recovered from the Great Chris Bosh Disappointment of 2014 to assemble a team that went to the Western Conference Finals, and I think he plucked a couple potential contributors in last week's draft when he took Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell.
The Rockets are in position to be in the mix come June next season. But I will be honest, this point guard situation scares the holy hell out of me, and it got significantly more precarious late yesterday when Spanish phenom Sergio Llull, whose rights the Rockets have had seemingly since the second Clutch City title in 1995 (it's actually been since 2009), decided to stay in Spain and play for Real Madrid next season.
Rumors had abounded going back to the latter portion of the NBA regular season that the Rockets had been negotiating to bring Llull over to the United States, and in the speculation, offers ranged anywhere from $5 million per year (likely the mid level exception) to $8 million per year (likely baseless speculation because that would require salary dumps on Houston's part). In the end, according to Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, it came down to finances, as Real Madrid made a "superior financial offer." Llull's new contract is believed to run through the 2017-2018 season.
Llull, 27, has been starring overseas, where his team won the Euroleague title last season, and he averaged 12 points and three assists for Real Madrid. If you want a taste of what might have been, Rockets fan, here you go….
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So now where do the Rockets go from here, because there is zero chance they enter the season with a point guard rotation of Pablo Prigioni and Nick Johnson, the NBA equivalent of heading over to the Middle East with a Super Soaker and a butter knife. The options to get to "competent or better" appear to be as follows:
1. Overpay Patrick Beverley.
It was reported when free agency opened that Beverley had interest from the Mavericks, Knicks, Kings, and (in a slight surprise) the Cavaliers. I have to imagine that the Cavs spending themselves into a Prokhorov-esque stupor the last two days eliminates them. The Kings appear to be dumping salaries to try to make bigger-than-Beverley moves, but who knows? It's the Kings. Maybe Vlade Divac is ready to drop a $10 million per year offer sheet on Bev. The Mavericks are always a concern because Mark Cuban seems to enjoy posting trolly pics with Rockets he just signed. And the Knicks? Well, they're the Knicks. That's all. So the good news on this is that the Rockets can match any offer Beverley gets. The bad news is that Morey's threshold for what he wants to pay Beverley may have to increase out of need….and Morey hates doing value-skewing things out of need.
2. Begin playing "trade machine" scenarios for Ty Lawson or Eric Bledsoe.
Depending on what the Rockets are willing to part with (and it would likely have to be Trevor Ariza), the Rockets could actually come out of this whole thing upgrading the point guard position. Lawson and Bledsoe would seemingly both qualify as "available trade targets," in part because their current teams appear to be in love with someone else. The Nuggets used the seventh pick in the draft on point guard Emanuel Mudiay, prompting this react from Lawson….
As for Bledsoe, well, just one year after getting a huge deal from the Suns, they immediately drop a five year, $70 million deal on Brandon Knight, who they picked up in a deal at the trade deadline. My guess is Bledsoe is probably tired of being in the multi-starting point guard fetish that is the Phoenix Suns. Dragic, Bledsoe, Thomas, Knight, they just can't figure it out. Well, Bledsoe wouldn't have to worry about any lack of clarity here. Pretty sure his position would be fairly secure on a depth chart with Pridge and Nicky.
Just kidding. Not Delly.
I would recommend prayer, though.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.
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