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Kelly Olynyk continues to surprise for Rockets

The veteran big man has been better than advertised. Maybe Rafael Stone knows what he’s doing after all?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The dust from the NBA trade deadline has cleared, and it’s time to reflect back on the Victor Oladipo sweepstakes. The two-time NBA All-Star, who’s a free agent this summer, had expressed interest in competing for a championship contending team, which the Houston Rockets are not at the moment. For that reason, the question wasn’t if Rockets management was going to trade Oladipo, but what assets they could get for him.

Minutes before the trade deadline, Oladipo was sent to the Miami Heat for Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley. Houston GM Rafael Stone took a lot of heat on social media for the deal, with many feeling he didn’t get enough for Oladipo, who was the primary player piece the Rockets got in return in the James Harden deal.

So while Bradley has battled injuries this season and played just 15 minutes in his Rockets debut last night against Memphis, Olynyk’s presence on the court has been much more noticeable.

Olynyk appeared in 43 games with Miami this season, averaging 10.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists over 26.9 minutes. And while those stats aren’t spectacular, he’s already been an evident upgrade from former Rockets power forward P.J. Tucker, and Olynyk’s averaging a scorching 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block since coming to H-town.

In his first appearance for Houston, the Toronto native gave the Rockets their second win since the horrendous 20-game losing streak. His 16-point performance against the Timberwolves was enough to fill the void of Christian Wood, whose ankle injury earlier in the year halted a potential playoff-bound season. Not to mention, the ex-Celtic exhibited shades of Larry Bird with his 4-6 shooting from the three-point range.

Last night, Olynyk continued his reign of dominance, dropping a season-high 25 points and 9 strong rebounds. At this rate, the Gonzaga great will be hoisting up the NBA MVP trophy in no time.

In all seriousness, Kelly Olynyk won’t be Houston’s savior, but he can be a key component for their depth chart moving forward. For the remainder of this season, one where Houston should be collecting lottery balls in the hunt for a top four pick, acquiring Olynyk and Bradley for Oladipo is not the end of the world.

Perhaps Rockets management could have negotiated for a better package deal, but trading away Oladipo was necessary. In another scenario, Oladipo would have stuck through the rest of this season and left Houston in free agency, leaving the franchise with nothing in return.

While tanking is discouraged, the Rockets need to continue working towards a lottery pick for the upcoming NBA draft. Afterwards, the team will be heading into the 2021-2022 season with Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr, Eric Gordon, John Wall, a well-scouted rookie, and several other talented players.

And while it’s doubtful that Olynyk returns to the Rockets after this season when his contract is up — he’ll likely command too high of a salary for a young team that can use the cap space in other areas — his basketball IQ looks to be a great fit for this young squad as a crafty veteran tying things together on the court.

There is a bright future ahead for Houston, one without Victor Oladipo and also likely without Olynyk in the long-term. But for the short term, it appears Olynyk’s going to be fun to watch in a Rockets uniform.