A season that couldn’t have begun any better finally hit it’s first rough patch with the announcement that starting center Clint Capela would miss four-to-six weeks with a broken fibula.
This will be the first true test of the season for the Rockets on how they respond to some adversity with the glaring hole in the lineup.
Sources: With loss of Capela, Rockets probing trade market on available bigs. Most likely scenario: Turning minutes to Nene and Harrell.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) December 20, 2016
And while Woj sees the same likely scenario that we all do, filling the role with veteran big man Nene and some expanded minutes for Montrezl Harrell, he also dropped that other little nugget. The Rockets are probing the trade market for a center.
The most obvious name is Nerlens Noel. He can’t get on the court in Philadelphia, and the 76ers are very likely to trade him at some point this season. He has a $4.4 million expiring contract and will be looking for a raise in the offseason. Philly will be looking to get something for him before he walks, though the price may be too rich for the Rockets’ tastes.
Brook Lopez is another big name said to be available for the right price, though his $22 million salary makes him a non-starter in Houston.
The most likely trade scenario is that Rockets GM Daryl Morey would make an under-the-radar move for additional depth rather than for a huge name. With Chinanu Onuaku not yet ready for the big time (Yes, I’ve seen his D-League stats, but the D-League is always littered with guys who put up numbers at that level but aren’t yet developed enough — Onuaku’s one of them) and Donatas Motiejunas is never walking back through the door, the Rockets are down to very little depth behind Nene, Harrell, and Ryan Anderson.
Sam Dekker has been seeing some time at the four in small, fast lineups for Mike D’Antoni, but he’s certainly not a traditional big man, and after Dekker, there’s nothing. Literally.
With Nene’s injury history and the additional minutes he’ll be playing with Capela out, the Rockets could be in some real trouble if he goes down for any period of time.
Plus, Capela’s injury, while certainly not short, is also not a long-term injury. He will be back, hopefully in January, and is the team’s current starter and center of the future. He’s a great fit for what the Rockets want to do, and Houston likely won’t be bringing any big names to replace him.
First though, we’ll see how the team responds with Nene and Trez holding down the paint with Anderson. I, for one, am extremely excited to see what Harrell does with this unexpected opportunity. He’s absolutely flashed the ability keep it on lock until Capela returns. Let’s hope he has the consistency to do it for the next six weeks.
In the meantime, expect Daryl Morey to keep his eyes peeled for any possible depth moves.