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Jordan Bell could have been a surprise steal for Rockets

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If given the opportunity, Jordan Bell could have been a steal for the Houston Rockets this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Late Tuesday night, the Houston Rockets pulled off one of the biggest trades in NBA history (in terms of number of players) in a four-team deal between the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks. In the trade, the Rockets received Robert Covington, Jordan Bell, and a second-round pick, while parting ways with Clint Capela (Hawks), Nene (Hawks), Gerald Green (Nuggets) and their 2020 first-round draft pick (Hawks).

After nearly two seasons of seeking his services, the Rockets finally got their guy. Covington has established himself as one of the top 3-and-D players in the league following his rookie-year in Houston (2014) — a career that has seen the 6’9” forward earn All-Defensive First Team honors in 2018.

While Covington was the grand prize for the Rockets, Jordan Bell appeared to be the forgotten player in this massive deal.

On paper, it is uncommon to get excited for a player averaging a career-low 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. But as an undersized backup center playing behind the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Noah Vonleh, the Timberwolves could not utilize Bell’s potential to the fullest, as he appeared in just 27 games while average 8.7 minutes of play.

If he had stayed a Rocket, one could have expected the 6’8” center to have the same effect in Houston similar to his days with the Golden State Warriors.

With the Rockets going all-in with small ball play, Bell could have provided Houston with some much-need depth in the frontcourt. When given enough minutes, he’s a solid rim protector who could alter shots at the basket and a reliable rebounder that could have improved Houston’s issues cleaning the glass.

On the offensive end, the Rockets are now still without a lob-threat for rolling to the basket with Harden and Westbrook, as Bell potentially would’ve replaced at least some of what Capela brought to the table over the past five seasons in Houston.

For a career per 36 minutes, Bell is averaging 11.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.3 blocks according to Basketball-Reference.com.

In 52 games where he appeared for more than 15 minutes on the court (including post-season) Bell averaged 6.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks as a member of the Warriors during his first two seasons.

The best game of his young career came during the Warriors’ 113-106 victory over the Lakers in 2017 when Bell recorded a career-best 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting to go with 10 rebounds in 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, Houston will never get the opportunity to experience how the University of Oregon prodigy could have impacted the team, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Bell was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Bruno Caboclo.

With Memphis in-need of size and depth, the Grizzlies have added a young valuable piece in Bell who can help increase their chancing of sneaking into the playoffs as an eight seed, while the Rockets traded for a player that was on their roster at the beginning of last season ago and one that won’t be healthy until at least after the All-Star break.

With no true starting center on the roster, the Rockets could’ve had a replacement in the 25-year-old Bell but are now forced to test their luck on the buyout market. They do have two roster spots open, but are armed with just prorated veteran’s deals and a partial exception worth $1.35 million. Feels like a missed opportunity for Houston, at least until buyout season plays itself out.