Either of these guys would look great in Red; but one could be obtained for much less. - Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Daryl Morey's moves at the deadline always seem to catch us off guard. Here is why I think that is and why Paul Millsap could be his prime target as the trade market heats up towards its February 21st end date.
Yes, my friends, it's almost time to be checking twitter relentlessly and refreshing the NBA rumors page every couple of minutes again. Because if we've learned one thing about Daryl Morey in his tenure as Houston Rockets general manager, it's that he is going to make a move at the deadline whether it is big or small.
With this thought in mind as we approach the February 21st trade deadline, I proposed a question on my twitter yesterday and it started a wildfire of responses. The question was that if a move was made for a power forward, theoretically, as opposed to Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge being traded for, would you be okay with the acquisition of Paul Millsap instead?
Now the simple answer here is no. We are probably unanimous in our opinion that Love and Aldridge are both better players with higher ceilings than Millsap. But that wasn't really the main point of my suggestion.
Daryl Morey has always made moves that surprise us since he's been here. When his hands were tied from being married to the albatross contracts of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, he had to get really crafty to make things work. That's how we ended up with Kevin Martin as our "star" player. But now, for this first time in a long while, we have a solid team with a legitimate top player, a high ceiling and still enough room for another max player.
So the quick reaction is that why should we "settle" for a guy like Millsap instead of swinging for the fences for guys like Love, Aldridge or maybe even Al Jefferson? My answer is this; the reason Daryl Morey's moves always surprise us is because we aren't thinking analytically like him. By now all of us are familiar with the term "moneyball" and know that this is the type of management method Morey practices. Now that he has his potential superstar player (I think Harden is well on his way, others are saying not yet), it could be easier to lure a big fish to Houston via free agency. Easy call, right? Not so fast.
The free agent pool this offseason isn't quite as nice as you'd like headed into an offseason with this much cap flexibility. The biggest names on the list are headlined by guys that will either never get away from their current teams, or guys like Josh Smith and David West. Unlike the majority of you, I've watched guys like Josh Smith his whole career and would be against that move. And I don't think Daryl is going to be the type of guy to extend a max offer just to do so. It really isn't his style. Therefore, I think he still has a long term plan and it may not happen immediately. Look how long it took him to get a player like James Harden, after all.
But in that deal to get James Harden, all of the remaining assets that he had accrued were pretty much diminished. So to say he should go out and trade for guys like Aldridge or Love, who are said not to be on the trading block, is quite a tall order. If either of them were made available, there are plenty of other clubs that could easily trump our offer. And to put all his eggs into the "sign Josh Smith" basket would be risky given the failed Gmail and iPad campaigns of the recent past.
Now that we've gotten to this point, my question remains if you would be okay with making a move for a guy like Paul Millsap? He's an expiring contract with Utah that shouldn't take very much to get with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Marvin Williams waiting in the wings. Jefferson is up for a new deal as well and they aren't going to bring all of them back with that kind of young talent waiting for more floor time.
I won't get into all the pieces it would take to get him and get bogged down in a "no way, we shouldn't trade him!" argument. That isn't the point of this article. The point is that in trying to think in a Daryl Morey like approach to roster management, and a player like Paul Millsap makes a ton of sense to bridge the gap until the bigger move can be made. He's efficient, can rebound and he earns half of what Aldridge, Jefferson or Love makes. That's exactly the type of formula Daryl believes in.
In the end, it all comes down to fit; and Millsap would be a perfect fit in this offense. I'm not an advanced stats guy like some of the other big brains here on the site are, but it's hard to deny them. Millsap is better at spreading the floor and passing than any of those other guys and that is a must for McHale's offense. I'd argue he's better at setting a pick and doing things that don't show up on the stat sheet, too.
And if you need one more thing to sweeten this deal; it gives us the best shot at retaining Chandler Parsons and his incredible bargain of a contract. If you go for one of those other three guys, you're giving up Chandler. He would likely be the first player on any potential blockbuster trading partner's list. For Millsap, Daryl could pull the move off and keep Parsons here cheap for another two seasons. That's how moneyball works.
Finally, if the trade for Millsap is made and he doesn't work out, he can always be used in a sign and trade deal at the end of the season. And in the end, there's very little Daryl likes as much as obtaining and collecting some assets. This isn't the move to make us a championship contender this year or next. But he can be an affordable piece going forward as we set ourselves up for that ultimate goal.