This trade deadline, the Houston Rockets continued on with their trend of purging bad contracts and, albeit, bad players.
In a three-team trade involving the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Sacramento Kings, the Rockets unloaded Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight to the Cavaliers. In another trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston dumped off James Ennis III.
All these players have also one glaring thing in common: they were all added this offseason. They now join the ranks of Michael Carter-Williams and, most noteably, Carmelo Anthony as players who couldn’t last the entire year on a team still trying to figure it all out.
What Houston received in the three-team trade was Iman Shumpert, Nik Stauskas, and Wade Baldwin IV - the latter two were immediately traded to the Pacers to clear up cap space. They also received a second-round pick swap for Ennis from the Sixers.
The trade deadline summed up: the Rockets gave up James Ennis and gained Iman Shumpert and went under the luxury tax.
If you’re grading the trade deadline happenings as is for the Rockets - well - there isn’t much to grade. Nothing has technically happened as far as results go, which would make it an incomplete.
Yes, they traded for a slightly better version of Ennis in Shumpert, but they also gave up a viable rotation piece in Ennis for a second-round draft pick. The Rockets struggle already with not having enough guys out on the court, and keeping Ennis would’ve meant having a slightly deeper rotation.
Also, much like how they got rid of Ryan Anderson, trading away of bunch of guys you just added a few months ago is a reminder of how poorly moves have gone outside of re-signing Chris Paul and Clint Capela. You’re looking to move guys for the sake of moving them. But they were able to unload a bigger contract for nothing contracts (as opposed to trading a huge contract like Anderson’s for a medium contract like Knight’s).
Now, if you’re grading the Rockets’ moves on what it COULD be, well then it has to be a B that could probably turn into a B+ or A,- or even an F, depending on what it all means.
Houston literally made money moves.
Rockets may initially do a dance to ensure that, at just $634K below the tax line, they stay under. But they may soon come to the conclusion that Clint Capela won’t reach 30% DREB% + 2K minutes, be more comfortable that they’re actually $1.1M under, and be more free as a result.— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) February 7, 2019
They are under the luxury tax and have two open rosters spots. This is good news because they can acquire some solid rotation players from the buyout market. Most notably, Wayne Ellington could be available soon, and the Rockets are always in need of shooters. Houston can also gain some size in Robin Lopez, who is rumored to be bought out by the Bulls. Carmelo Anthony is still looking for a home too *HarHar*.
This is also the biggest way in to getting Danuel House back into the rotation. Let’s face it, this is what a lot of Rockets fans are hoping for. There’s not much to report on his personal relationship with management, but if he can play like he was playing before the contract disputes, it should be a no-brainer to re-sign House.
So the current grade is B (with the possibility of upgrading) because they put themselves in a much better position to actually make a move.
It could also easily turn into an F because - I hate to even mention it - it could have have been a plan to just simply get under the luxury tax. It’s really not fair to automatically assume this is the case, because Tillman Fertitta and Daryl Morey are guys who want to win now, so to insinuate they’re putting money over making moves is kind of wrong. But at the same time, it would also be really naive to think it’s out of the realm of possibility. Fertitta has spoken publicly several times about not wanting to get into a repeater tax, so it is possible that management saw a window to get under this year and took it. It’s all technically conjecture at this point.
But for the time being, all fans should worry about is Houston filling up the rest of their open roster spots, hopefully with players who will make a difference in the rotation. The second half of the season is here, and the Rockets need to get their rosters set for the stretch run and get ready for the playoffs. They will still have an opportunity to do that after the deadline with the flexibility created by these moves.