The Rockets had been known seekers of another big man — despite their players’ insistence that the team can do just fine with Nene Hilario and Montrezl Harrell filling the minutes at center — and now a target has emerged.
Kosta Koufos, one of the fistful of centers on the Sacramento Kings, is the apple of Daryl Morey’s eye, Marc Stein reports. And Corey Brewer, who was terrible last year and at the start of this season before improving to decent since, is up for grabs.
Have heard from a few teams HOU is dangling Brewer, which isn't getting them much traction. https://t.co/Lmtv6Ix2dZ— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 30, 2016
Koufos is playing for your currently eighth-place in the West Kings. Turns out, in a down year for like two-thirds of the NBA — despite apparently fewer teams trying to tank, or so we were told — anyone can make the playoffs!
Koufos is obvious Clint Capela insurance. We’re a week and a half into the Swiss Roll’s four-to-six week recovery from a broken fibula. He’s already rehabbing, and he’s still just 22, so he’s probably returning closer to the four-week end of the spectrum, or just two-and-a-half weeks. A deal for a player, and a contract, of Koufos is more than just a quick injury patch.
Koufos would continue the long, often ignominious history of Greek Rockets like Vassilis Spanoulis and the briefly brilliant Ty Lawson-trade-fodder Kostas Papanikolaou. He’s averaging 5.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game in Sacramento, and he’s blocking a career-low amount of shots.
He’s listed at 7 feet tall but has minus athleticism. That’s why he’s blocking less than a shot a game and opponents are shooting 61.9 percent against him within 6 feet. That’s a lot better than Nene, who’s allowing 72 percent shooting against him within 6 feet, just slightly better than Trevor Ariza and worse than Eric Gordon.
He’s also being paid $8 million this year and next, with a player option for $8.7 million in 2018-2019. That’s a reasonable contract in these times, but one that could definitely affect the Rockets in free agency next year. It’s hard to move big men, and Morey can’t take for granted his ability to flip Koufos in the summer to sign a stud.
The idea of trading Brewer is not a novel one around these parts. It’s impossible to tweet during games without getting about 10 “trade Brewer” tweets in every game. While Koufos would be a defensive upgrade, it’s not like Corey Brewer is going to make the Kings drop everything to move a productive player on what could be their first playoff team in ages.
The Rockets also own their first-round picks into the future, and have two second-round picks this year, not to mention some valuable foreign player rights like Sergio Llull (which is probably worthless at this point), Alessandro Gentile and, most notably, second-round pick Zhou Qi.
If the Rockets, who are slightly above the salary cap according to Spotrac, trade for Koufos, Brewer’s likely to be in any deal for him. It’s just a matter of what else the Kings would want.
I’m not sure how I feel about this trade. While Brewer has brought a lot to the table in the bench mob with his length and fast-break ability, he’s also still a minus shooter. The Rockets only need a rotation of Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Sam Dekker, [insert big here], Montrezl Harrell for the playoffs. Dekker is good enough to absorb Brewer’s minutes, and Nene’s bad enough that it makes sense for the Rockets to try to find a replacement.
I’m not sure that trading Brewer away, when he’s again bringing energy to a killer bench unit — he’s just one year removed from getting a handful of Sixth Man of the Year votes — and has long been a favorite in the locker room, is worth what Koufos brings. I’m leaning slightly against any deal that ships Brewer out, but if Morey can work some cap magic where some combo of Kyle Wiltjer/Bobby Brown/spare parts/picks is enough to get Koufos to Houston, I’m for it.