When Thomas Robinson was acquired at the trade deadline last season, many were quick to assume that the Rockets were simply acquiring him to use him later as a trade asset. Such a move is Daryl Morey's modus operandi, but the Rockets were quick to silence such speculation. With the Rockets in need of shedding salary before July 1st, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported a few weeks ago that the Rockets were shopping him in preparation for their big pursuit of Dwight Howard.
Now, as the NBA Draft approaches, Marc Stein says the Rockets have at least one suitor willing to give up a first round pick in this draft:
Some draft scuttle: Rockets have been offered chance to shed contract of PF Thomas Robinson for first-round pick in next Thursday's draft— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 21, 2013
Rockets, I'm told, have eyes on fistful of international players they'd draft with a first for Robinson to keep overseas and avoid cap hit— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 22, 2013
I'm no @chadfordinsider, so hope I'm getting these names right. Players on Rockets' radar: Adetokunbo, Gobert, Karasev, Nogueira, Schroeder— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 22, 2013
The important part in all of this is the second tweet. If the Rockets traded Robinson for a first round pick and drafted a player they would sign immediately, most of the cap space they would save by moving Robinson would be taken up by the player drafted with their acquired pick. By drafting an international player they could stash for a year, they would eliminate the cap hold of the first round pick.
If a player is willing to sign a waiver saying that he will not sign for the entire season, the team that drafts him has the cap hold removed and can use that space to sign free agents. After the lockout, as Donatas Motiejunas decided to stay in Europe with Benetton Treviso, he signed that waiver and the Rockets freed up some $2 million to spend.
In a fairly weak crop of domestic players, the Rockets could find themselves a gem with one of many strong international players. Stein listed a number, but Sergey Karasev and Giannis Adetokunbo stick out. Karasev is a Russian wing with playmaking ability and range on his jumper, and Adetokunbo is the youngest player in the draft and has nearly unlimited potential. With a year or two of development overseas, both could join the Rockets and help them in a big way.
Losing Thomas Robinson, an intriguing prospect that we have not seen much of would hurt, but the cap space generated by such a move would be particularly advantageous for the Rockets. There's little doubt that the Rockets will make a move in the next few weeks in their pursuit of max cap space, and somebody has to go. If the Rockets can get good value for Robinson, they have to take the deal.