Houston came one game and some questionable calls away from toppling Golden State and advancing to the NBA Finals. The Rockets are a solid piece away from being the best team in the NBA to beat the Warriors. This coming summer two huge pieces may be up for grabs and Houston's gonna want either Paul George or Lebron James.
Houston is going into the offseason with $80m in salary and a salary cap set to be at $101m; Lebron's first year max salary would be $35.4 million and PG would be at $30 and change. Once you dive into the deeper details though, it becomes much more complicated than that. Clint Capela is a soon to be free agent that Houston can sign over the cap; Chris Paul is also a soon to be free agent with a massive cap hold of $39 million. If the Rockets renounced every free agent and traded everyone who wasn't untouchable, they still couldn't sign Lebron or even George outright. While Daryl Morey is a genius GM, there's zero chance of him being able to trade Ryan Anderson, PJ Tucker, Nene, and Onuaku without taking salary back. For the sake of this article though, we'll roll the dice and say “what if…”
Even if Houston gutted their roster without taking salary back, it's impossible for them to afford a max for Paul and James or George while also paying James Harden. For scenario 1 though, let's say Morey pulls a rabbit out of his hat and trades everyone without taking salary back, it'd result in roughly $47m for Houston to play with. Would CP3 split that $47m with Bron or George? No clue. Splitting that $47m over the course of a contract results in a lot of lost money for both sides and even if that core wins a title, money is money.
Operation “trade everyone” takes a turn for the extreme if Houston has to trade Eric Gordon. Gordon has become a huge part of Houston's offense and losing him would hurt, but signing Lebron or George helps make up for that. If the Rockets somehow find a suitor for everyone and Gordon while taking no salary back, they can sign either or out right to a respected max contract.
Both Paul George and Lebron James have player options for next season, both are also expected to opt out of their options as well. We saw how Chris Paul opted into his deal to get traded to Houston so this is possible of course. On the downside Houston would be needed every star in the universe to align for this to work. A Rockets offer would most likely involve Clint Capela, Ryan Anderson, and first round picks in 2019, 2021, and 2023. For Lebron, that's a poor offer and even for George it's highly questionable.
I don't doubt Morey, but to get either Lebron or George would take a huge effort on everyone's end. Houston would have to be okay with gutting their roster, Chris Paul would have to be okay with taking less than max and George/Lebron would have to choose Houston. While I don't seen it ever happening, Morey has shown his ability to turn parts in stars with his CP3 trade so anything is possible with him.