7 Reasons LeBron James Could Join the Houston Rockets

With another Cleveland Cavaliers season ending in disappointment and LeBron James a free agent, there’s no end to the speculation as to where he’ll end up. Stay in Cleveland? Join the Bulls? Go to New York? Join the Clippers? (No, seriously, some are suggesting that.) The LeBron James Free Agency Saga has been considered from just about every possible angle (including its impact on Jews; oy vey, it’s enough to drive you meshugga).

Just about the only thing these prognostications have in common is that they all agree (if only by omission) that King James is not coming to the Houston Rockets. There are many times when the conventional wisdom is correct, and it does indeed seem unlikely that the Rockets are at the top of James’ list. However, with many pundits banding about the word “impossible” in relation the Rockets snagging King James, I have to disagree. Unlikely? Yes. Very. But not impossible. After all, if you had told someone at the beginning of this season that Daryl Morey would trade a battered T-Mac, Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey and a bag of doorknobs for: A.) A 20 point scorer (Kevin Martin), B.) the 8th pick of the 2009 draft (Jordan Hill), C.) Semi-protected rights to swap picks with New York in the 2011 Draft, and D.) New York’s semi-protected 2012 1st round draft pick, they would have called you crazy.

Because unreasonable optimism is the province of bloggers and hometown sports columnists, here are 7 reasons why the Houston Rockets might indeed be able to sign LeBron James:

  1. Yao Ming: The Rockets should (fingers crossed) have Yao Ming back next season. If he can retain his former form (a big if) and stay healthy (even bigger), then the Rockets will have no worse than the second best center in the NBA. Having a great center on his team (Shaq no longer qualifies) would help prevent other teams from double- and triple-teaming James every time he touches the ball. Yao is also a presence at the defensive end and is (unlike Shaq) a free-throw shooting machine. Outside of Orlando’s Dwight Howard, no other potential teammate in the entire NBA has as much potential to provide a complimentary insider scorer.
  2. No State Income Tax: Anywhere James is going to go, he’s going to sign a max contract deal, say somewhere around $16.8 million. That means he would rake in the same amount no matter which team he signs with, right? Wrong. Texas has no state income tax, and Houston has no city income tax, while the unfortunate denizens of New York City have to suffer under both. First, New York State has a top income tax rate of 8.97%. But wait, that’s not all! New York City has its own income tax on top of the state income tax! I believe James would qualify as a “Resident Head of Household,” which means his city tax rate would be “$2,047 plus 3.648% of excess over $60,000”. King James would have to cough up over two millions dollars a year (or, to be precise, $2,119,682 ($1,506,960 in state income tax, and $612,722 in city income tax, assuming my calculations are correct) for the privilege of playing in New York City rather than Houston. Many New York apologists will say that moving there would earn him more money than he would lose due to greater endorsement possibilities from playing in the country’s largest media market. But that leads to my next point:
  3. Moving to New York does little to raise his national profile; moving to Houston does lots to raise his international profile: New York is indeed the country’s largest media market, but so what? James is already the most important basketball player in the country. Sure, moving to NYC might sell a few more jerseys in the five boroughs, but the rest of the country regards New York City not with the awe so many of its own residents seem to have deluded themselves into thinking is their birthright, but with indifference or outright hostility. His existing fans may buy his Knicks jersey, but no one West of the Hudson who wasn’t already a LeBron James fanatic is going to care. But a move to Houston would raise his international profile tremendously by pairing him with the only basketball player bigger than James on the international scene: Yao Ming. Moving to New York might net him another 10 million fans; moving to Houston might potentially net him another billion. How many more shoes do you think Nike could sell in China if James teamed up with Ming? That’s the long-term play that makes the most sense for both James and the NBA.
  4. Houston has lots of pieces for a sign-and-trade: One reason so many think it’s impossible for the Rockets to sign James is their lack of cap space. While true, it overlooks the possibility of Houston performing a sign-and-trade with Cleveland if James decided he would look swell in Rocket Red. (And let’s face it: He would look swell.) And Morey has assembled a lot of valuable pieces to trade with. How does 3 first round picks (including the one from New York) over the next two years, Jordan Hill and/or Trevor Ariza sound? That would give the Cavs a chance to build a pretty nice foundation for the future instead of letting James walk for nada.
  5. Solid Teammates: In addition to being all-around solid guys who are (mostly) willing to play defense, take a look at the monster scoring averages Houston would have with LeBron James and a healthy Yao Ming:
    • LeBron James: 29.7 ppg
    • Yao Ming: 19.7 ppg (based on his 2008-2009 season)
    • Kevin Martin: 21.3 ppg
    • Aaron Brooks: 19.6 ppg
    • Luis Scola: 16.2 ppg

    So, that’s 106.5 points per game without any scoring from the bench! The Rockets should just roll over the opposition! They should-

    “Basketball does not work that way!”

    What, you’re saying that I’m confusing fantasy basketball statistics with real basketball? OK, fine. Everyone’s average will probably come down to give King James enough shots to hit his near-30. Still, when Luis Scola at 15 points a game is your least productive scorer, these Rockets would be a nightmare to defend. Any one of of them is capable of making you pay for double-teaming James or Yao. And you can’t double-team both, or Brooks and Martin are going to kill you from the 3-point line. That starting five would automatically be the best team in the NBA (and significantly younger than the Celtics). And keep in mind that Brooks and Martin’s 20 point averages for the 2009-2010 season were compiled without a Yao or LeBron to keep defenses from keying on them. And they still won 42 games. Add LeBron James to the Knicks and they’re a playoff team. Add LeBron James to the Rockets and they’re automatically a championship favorite.

  6. Rick Adelman: Just about every player Adelman has ever coached says they loved playing for him. (T-Mac is about the only player I can think of dissenting from that opinion, and think we all know where the fault lies there.) Adelman even received nothing but praise from the volatile Ron Artest, who was a model citizen off the court for his year in Houston. (On the court Adelman could never dissuade Artest from his questionable shot selection, but that’s the Lakers’ problem now…) Also keep in mind that Adelman’s last losing season was with the Golden State Warriors in 1997, he lead the Rockets on a 22-game winning streak (the NBA’s second longest), even though half those games were without Yao, in 2008, and his woefully undermanned Rockets still took the Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals last year. The man can coach, and he might be just the man to elevate James’ already lofty game even higher.
  7. The Daryl Morey Factor: Just as you should never, ever underestimate the heart of a champion, you should never underestimate the wiliest GM in the league. I’m going to leave it to real Rockets bloggers like The Dream Shake and Red 94 to go into all the details of just how much smarter Morey seems to be than every other GM in the NBA. But what if Morey has just been playing possum all along? What if all the Chris Bosh talk has been a carefully constructed smokescreen to obscure the fact that Morey has a cunning and elaborate scheme to land James? And if he had to, I’m betting Morey could clear sufficient cap space to land James in short order (remember those draft picks). How? If I knew that, I’d be running an NBA club or breaking the bank at Vegas rather than writing a blog.

So there you have it: Seven logical reason why LeBron James might indeed end up with the Houston Rockets. Likely? No. But not beyond the realm of possibility.

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19 Responses to “7 Reasons LeBron James Could Join the Houston Rockets”

  1. egriff says:

    I love your thinking kind sir. Seriously, the rockets are ready made to be led to a the top. If only LBJ and Nike would see it the way you do.

  2. TopFive says:

    I’ve been thinking along these lines myself. If LeBron leaves Cleveland, he’ll almost certainly want to do so via a sign-and-trade, which would leave the Cavs with enough pieces so that they wouldn’t be completely starting over. If he comes to Houston, they’d get the Knicks picks, at least one starter, and most like Jeffries’ and/or Battier’s expiring contracts. That would allow the Cavs skip an entire year in the rebuilding process.

    Get ‘er done, Morey!

  3. jd jackson says:

    i agree 100% if you think about it-james coming to our rockets
    makes more sense than the other teams mentioned.

  4. Ned says:

    1) I can’t buy the argument that Chinese popularity will outweigh the appeal of an invitation to be King of New York City

    2) All those scoring averages need to be thrown out the window. Had Yao been around to score 20 points a game, those other scoring averages wouldn’t have been nearly as high. And the team scoring avg. would have been lower as well because of its more deliberate style of play when Yao is present.

  5. everyone thinking New York, Miami, Chicago and maybe Cleveland. Houston is the least expected to get lebron james. It just might happen

  6. Kayla Rivers says:

    Those are awesome reasons.I just hope that if LeBron does come here,that Shane doesn’t get traded.He is our best defender.And he is a pretty good offensive player when he wants to be.I hope LeBron comes but I love our 2009-2010 roster and I don’t want to see any of our guys go.I also agree with @egrff and @Darnell Simmons.Let’s go Rockets!=D

  7. djb says:

    I must admit that this is a good idea, but only if we don’t trade any of our 09-10 team. I didn’t miss a game and love our players. The 7 reasons were well thought out and make sense, but it’s not my or our decision. We have a wonderful coach and players. GO ROCKETS !!!!

  8. the new york city is the home of king kong…

  9. Chris says:

    Ned, if you think King of New York City is big then think King of… well the whole world! China is the reason why Yao is a top 1 or 2 pick in the allstar game (above Lebron) every year. Imagine if he played along side Yao. His brand would tripple easy. New York is not gonna make Lebron any bigger than he already is. But teaming up with Yao in Houston lends a greater gateway to International stardom.

  10. Neil says:

    Wow never thought about LBJ to Houston. That just might work

  11. Matt says:

    I don’t think Cleveland will agree to any sign and trade. Lebron will have to sign with a team with cap room to leave.

  12. Marin says:

    Good points except for the income tax thing. Yes, he won’t be taxed when he plays in Texas (or Florida) but you still have to pay taxes in the other states you work in.

  13. ihab says:


    Making an extra 10 million a year easy by teaming up with Nike to sell the lebron brand name in china is what outweighs being the king of Ny. Being lebron you can live like a king in any city.

  14. Chris says:

    I think the biggest drawback here is that the West is much tougher than the East. With new and improved teammates, LeBron could reign for the rest of his career in the East and not have nearly as many potential roadblocks as in the West. This last playoffs just proved that…ORL and CLE have NOT figured it out and Atlanta and Milwaukee don’t seem ready to step up.

  15. peter says:

    I think the only chance of getting LBJ to Houston is if Yao Ming went out to personally lobby lebron to join the Rockets and plus, like the article says, miracle deal packages from GM to make it work, and maybe a visit from the Chinese governement officials…

    I don’t know if lebron has thought about the Rockets, Ming, and the international presence potential, but perhaps maybe none of it matters to him; think about this, if you could make say, 30 million a year, would you “care” that much more to make 10 or 20 million more? Some of you may say yes, but then you’re probably not thinking from the perspective of the best basketball player present; Instead, would other factors, such as environment, family, or other personal reasons out weigh more? What about the intangibles such as legacy for the ages of being in Chicago, NYC, or even staying in Cleveland? Of course none of us have the answers, but if I was him, making money probably isn’t going to be too difficult, I’d focus more on how to establish myself in the history of NBA and as a professional baskeball player.

    If Michael Jordan was still playing today at his prime and his contract is up, do you think he will leave the Bulls and play with Yao and the Rockets for how ever much money is thrown his way or for the potential popularity increase amongst the Chinese? The fact is Jordan doesn’t even need Yao to be the most beloved basketball player in the world, and if I was Lebron, I’d much rather establish that kind of reputation on my own instead of needing a Yao Ming to get there.

    Just to be clear, I have absolutely nothing against the Rockets, and the article does bring up a lot of good points, so these are just my two cents in response to the arguments presented…

  16. Chris says:

    How great would it be to see LeBron in a Rockets jersy?The Rockets would automatically be better than the Lakers in my mind.It would be a gauranteed championship for Houston.All Morey has to do is get King James attention.I know its not likely to happen but imagine facing a team that has Yao Ming,Aaron Brooks,Louis Scola,Trever Ariza and LeBron James!!!

  17. Ram says:

    Well the point you have with LeBron coming to Rokets is the best thing James has comming for him If he wants to win championships with a Potential Dynasty like Bulls,Lakers,Celtics Ect. he can win atleast 5 out of the next 6 years championships and take Kobe off his current throne because lets be real we migt call him king James but Kobe has the rings at the moment and one or two rings aint going to get him to be my king He only has one choice to be the great king James and thats joining the Rokets no other team has that potential He gots a choice to join a team for a title or join Rokets to make his own DYNASTY

  18. LeBron Daily says:

    Wherever LeBron goes… be sure the fans, fame and fortune will follow. Personally, I’ll find it very interesting for him to Rock a Knicks Jersey…

  19. […] you have heard this already. The media does seem to have covered the issue.) Although James will not be joining the Rockets, this is still good news for the Rockets for two […]

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