As I’m sure you’ve heard— and likely expected— Rockets’ General Manager Darryl Morey plans on being a buyer at the trade deadline. And with a report surfacing today that the Rockets remain interested in trading for J.R. Smith (don’t worry, we’ll get to him later), Morey appears focused on shoring up his shaky wing rotation now that the newly beloved Austin Rivers has rounded out the roster’s guards.
Now, that’s not to discredit James Ennis, Gerald Green, Gary Clark, and Danuel House. They’ve been as solid as one could ask, especially lately. However, it’s no accident each player is on a minimum or two-way contact. If the Rockets want to go as deep they did last season— or further— they’ll need to upgrade what is arguably the overall worst wing rotation in the Western Conference.
That’s not to say there aren’t other areas of the roster that need upgrading. If Nene Hilario or Clint Capela goes down, the Rockets’ would be forced to throw one of Isaiah Hartenstein or Marquese Chriss (believe it or not, he’s actually still on the Rockets!) to the wolves, in an effort not to overextend the Tucker-at-the-five minutes during the season’s stretch run. But D’Antoni won’t play more than a few bigs once the playoffs roll around anyways, so upgrades would be better served on the wing.
For that reason, this article and its upcoming Western Conference counterpart are going to focus almost entirely on possible wing additions. Additionally, there’ll be a greater emphasis on larger wings since Mike D’Antoni has a penchant for supplanting smaller wings with three— sometimes even four— guard lineups.
So looking at the east, there is a clear distinction of three tiers: 1) Legitimate teams in the conference who won’t be selling under any circumstances 2) Franchises stuck competing for the junior varsity conference’s six through eight seeds who, realistically, should be selling. 3) Unabashed tankers who will literally sell anything not tied down.
So obviously, we’ll be looking at tiers 2 and 3. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty:
Should be Could Be Sellers
Trevor Ariza- The Wizards folding on their season and tanking to reinvigorate their outlook is the logical move now that John Wall is out for the year, but in typical Wizard’s fashion, they reportedly applied for a disabled player exception on Wednesday. Adding another player would greatly increase their tax bill so a playoff push is almost definitely in their plans, making Ariza unavailable. Either way, regardless of Ariza’s regression this season, he’s a natural fit with this Houston roster. If Washington pushes for the playoffs past the deadline before falling out of it, he’d be number one on the Rockets’ buyout list.
Markieff Morris- This is the dark horse of the list. Although more of a big than a wing, Morris could competently back up P.J. Tucker, help with longstanding rebounding issues, space the floor, and even play spot-minutes at the five in certain matchups. His expiring contract makes him even more attractive, but he recently went down with an injury that will keep him sidelined till after the deadline, complicating matters. It’s possible the injury makes him available for a lesser price, however, it’s safer to wait till he’s returned to play, see how he performs, and hope he hits the buyout market.
Jeff Green- Considering the entire Rockets team played like Jeff Green for the first month of the season and was borderline unwatchable, I wouldn’t want this one to happen.
DeMarre Carroll- If the version of Trevor Ariza we’ve seen this season is who he is now, I’d honestly rather have Carroll. He’s shooting it far better than Ariza from three and can defend at essentially the same level. And that’s coming from someone who had to watch him play consistently in Toronto.
Terrence Ross- Ross is a better version of Gerald Green. Some nights he’s one of the best players on the floor, some nights he’s a non-factor. He’s on an expiring deal and could help the Rockets, but I’d rather they go in a different direction.
Reggie Bullock- If you couldn’t tell by the article’s picture, a Bullock trade is the one I’m quietly hoping for. He’s 39.9 percent from three for his career, fairly versatile defensively, and doesn’t tie up next year’s cap. Additionally, he already has an absurd three-point rate, so any transition period on offense would be short-lived. Detroit is 4-16 in their last 20, so he might become available sooner than expected.
Marvin Williams- Williams falls into the same camp as Markieff Morris, only he has a player option for next season that he’d be a fool to decline, making him a less attractive option. If worst comes to worst and he’s the piece you ultimately move Brandon Knight for, he’d at least be a more logical use of 15 million for both this year and next year’s teams.
Wayne Ellington- Considering Ellington shot 39.2 percent from three last season on one of the toughest shot selections in the league, one can’t help but wonder what he’d shoot with James Harden and Chris Paul creating looks for him. His one-year deal makes him all-the-more intriguing.
For Sure Sellers
J.R. Smith- As previously mentioned, the Rockets are reportedly still interested in Smith. He’d provide a welcome shooting boost and has proven he can play against the Warriors, but considering his size, he could easily get buried in the depth chart come the playoffs if he hit a slump. Details about a possible deal as well as quotes from the report can be found here. It’s also important to note that due to salaries, Smith would likely only come to H-town in a package deal.
Kent Bazemore- This is probably the addition that makes the most sense, which is why it’s been rumored forever. Bazemore can competently defend multiple positions, make secondary plays, shoot the three well, and has a podcast to rival Austin Rivers’. Two podcasts on one NBA team would allow the Rockets to break yet another record, so I’m all for this to happen. With that said, I wouldn’t judge the Rockets wanting to avoid his hefty player option for next season.
Courtney Lee- Lee falls into a similar category to Bazemore in both playing style and contract duration. However, he’s missed most of this season with a bizarre neck injury, so he’d be available for a reduced price. Still, Lee is considerably smaller so I’d rather Bazemore regardless of the price.
Jabari Parker- Kidding!
What do you think, TDS? Who would you want the most? Who am I missing?