According to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, both Josh Smith and Danny Granger are likely to be moved in the coming weeks. Given that the Rockets have been extremely active in trade discussions over the last few years, Ford speculates that they will be interested. Let's get to the reports.
In his IN$IDER article at ESPN.com, Ford ranks Smith and Granger #1 and #4 on his "likely to be traded" list:
1. Josh Smith, F, Hawks
Smith has been on the trade block for several years, but the Hawks always pull back at the last second. Once again Smith is the talk of the NBA after he was thrown out of practice Tuesday and suspended for Wednesday's game against Brooklyn. His agent says Smith is frustrated, but hasn't demanded a trade.
The Hawks have been fielding calls, but have been reluctant to trade him because they believe Smith's presence in Atlanta could be a powerful lure for Dwight Howard this summer. But with Howard's situation up in the air, the time seems right for the Hawks and Smith to move on. Dallas, Houston, Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and the Lakers are all potential suitors. The biggest question is: What is the price tag for a mercurial forward who is entering his prime and will be a free agent this summer?
4. Danny Granger, F, Pacers
Granger has missed the entire season with a knee injury, but the Pacers are eyeing his return in late January or early February. If they can get him back into the swing of things quickly -- and get his trade value up -- expect them to try to flip him fast now that Paul George has replaced Granger as the alpha dog of the team.
Indiana needs a long-term replacement for David West, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. So if the Pacers could get a young power forward or another young point guard for Granger, I would expect them to make a deal.
Both would be very intriguing acquisitions to aid the Rockets this season and for the future, but I'm not sure they're moves that Morey is going to be interested in making.
Josh Smith has an expiring contract and will get a pretty big contract this summer. If the Rockets give up all those assets to acquire him, they will likely do it with the intent of extending him and keeping him around. After giving Smith his $50 million, with Asik and Lin both hitting the cap at $8 million the next two years and Harden under a max contract, that core of Lin, Harden, Parsons, Smith, and Asik is essentially set for the next few years.
Does Morey really want to limit this team's ceiling with a move like that? Right now Morey is set to have near-max cap room this summer and if he strikes out in free agency, he'll have it again next summer. With a young core to sell to potential free agents, Morey has a much more compelling pitch than firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smith might add a lot at the power forward spot, but he would be anything but a stabilizing force. Would that team be a championship contender? Barring some tremendous development from Lin and Asik, I don't think they'd even be in the conversation. That's why I'd say no to Josh Smith, and I'd suspect Morey would as well.
With Danny Granger, it gets a little more interesting. Granger is under contract for one more season after this one, and the Pacers would appear to be more motivated to move him once he comes back. Paul George has taken over as the Pacers' alpha-dog, and the team appears ready to move on in the post-Granger era.
The Rockets would certainly have to give up a few assets to get him, but they would be far less significant than those required for a Josh Smith deal. The real opportunity cost is the chance to land a free agent this summer. But are the Rockets really expected to be players in free agency? Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are both free agents, but I have little doubt that Paul will return to the Clippers and Howard seems likely to either stay in Los Angeles or go to Dallas.
Perhaps Andrew Bynum or Andre Iguodala could fall into the Rockets' laps, but how likely is that? With Granger, the Rockets could make themselves a serious playoff team this year and next, and have a horde of cap space, tremendous young talent (Lin, Asik, and Parsons seem likely to improve over the next two years), and a chance for a championship run to one of the many stars in the loaded 2014 class. The move would necessitate Parsons playing the four more often, but as Red94 wrote about a few weeks ago, he's been quite successful at that spot.
In the end, expect to hear a lot of chatter and probably not that many moves for the Rockets this year. The young core is pretty much set, and as the Rockets wait for them to mature, Morey is unlikely to make a move to mortgage the future for short term gain. The Granger move would be nice because it does improve the present outlook without significant long term consequences, but as we know from watching the trade season over the last few years, it's a lot easier to write about potential trades than actually closing a trade.