It’s no secret that the Rockets are listed as one of the biggest sellers for the NBA Trade Deadline season, and they hold several trade chips that make them one of the most important dominoes in the entire league.
GM Rafael Stone will likely hear from a decent amount of his NBA colleagues this week as he looks to push the Rockets forward in their rebuild.
I’m taking a seat in Stone’s chair and playing GM. Let’s look into one trade each Western Conference contender could make with the Rockets:
Utah Jazz (27-9)
Jazz receive: David Nwaba
Rockets receive: Udoka Azubuike, 2021 2nd-round pick
While David Nwaba may be injured and out for six weeks, a team like the Jazz that are looking to add one small piece to a near-complete puzzle might take a flier on Nwaba, a defender who can guard all five positions.
In return, the Rockets receive the Jazz’s 2020 first-round selection Udoka Azubuike, a 6’8” center who has struggled to see the court in his rookie season. For a rebuilding team without a 2020 first-rounder, this trade essentially gives the Rockets that piece.
Phoenix Suns (24-11)
Suns receive: P.J. Tucker
Rockets receive: E’Twaun Moore, Jevon Carter
The Rockets do right by P.J. by sending him to a contender and a place he’s familiar with in Phoenix, reuniting him with former Rockets teammate Chris Paul.
In return, the Rockets get Jevon Carter, a third-year backup guard who has lost minutes in the Suns rotation to Cameron Payne and E’Twaun Moore, who helps match salaries. The Rockets would likely waive Moore immediately after the trade and keep Carter aboard to improve the team’s defense in the backcourt.
Los Angeles Lakers (24-13)
Lakers receive: P.J. Tucker
Rockets receive: Jared Dudley, Wesley Matthews, Talen Horton-Tucker
The Rockets turn P.J. Tucker into a young asset with a lot of intrigue. Talen Horton-Tucker has turned into a fan favorite in LA, but he’s still buried in the team’s depth chart in a contract year.
THT, who has yet to turn 21, becomes a restricted free agent after the year and could receive an offer that the Lakers cannot match.
Dudley and Matthews come to Houston to match salaries, but would likely be bought out by the Rockets so they can pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Clippers receive: Victor Oladipo, Danuel House Jr.
Mavericks receive: Lou Williams, Dante Exum
Rockets receive: Patrick Beverley, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac, Mfiondu Kabengele, James Johnson, 2022 1st-round pick (via Dallas), 2022 2nd-round pick (via Los Angeles)
If the Clippers are going to make a trade, they have to be creative considering they don’t have first round-picks. And considering the team sits fourth in the West, it might behoove them to make that move. This move will likely never happen given all of the moving parts, but I think each team involved gets something out of it.
Dallas gets some three-point assistance that was vacated by the loss of Seth Curry this offseason.
LA gets two wings to boost its depth, including Danuel House on a very team-friendly deal. They’ll also acquire the bird rights to retain Oladipo, who has expressed desire to play in a large market. The Clips end up losing Zubac at center, but it opens up the door to possibly get Andre Drummond in the buyout market.
Houston gets back Patrick Beverley to ignite some defensive passion back into the Rockets, young Mfiondu Kabengele and Ivica Zubac, who could factor into a nice dose of minutes at the center spot.
Portland Trail Blazers (21-14)
Trail Blazers receive: P.J. Tucker
Rockets receive: Zach Collins, CJ Elleby, 2021 2nd-round pick
The Rockets get a young asset to replace Tucker in former Top 10 draft pick Zach Collins, who has been sidelined with injuries the past two seasons.
Collins, 23, is a restricted free agent in the offseason and the Rockets could potentially pair him in the frontcourt with Christian Wood in 2021-22.
Denver Nuggets (21-15)
Nuggets receive: Victor Oladipo
Rockets receive: Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, 2021 1st-round pick (Lottery protected)
The Nuggets get an upgrade at the two-guard spot for the stretch run to pair with Jamal Murray in the backcourt.
Gary Harris and Victor Oladipo have nearly matching salaries, and the Nuggets attach their first-round pick R.J. Hampton and their first-round pick this year to complete the trade.
This is one of the calmer deals you’ll see in this article, and the fit is very natural. The question is will Denver be willing to take the plunge and go all in with Vic.
Golden State Warriors (19-18)
Warriors receive: Victor Oladipo
Rockets receive: Kelly Oubre Jr., Eric Paschall, Marquese Chriss, 2022 1st-round pick (Top 10 protected)
With the Warriors interested in Victor Oladipo, this deal turns that interest into a reality. In any Vic trade, Kelly Oubre will have to be the primary piece as he makes close to $15 million. Add in Eric Paschall and Marquese Chriss to make up the other $6 million and a first rounder to sweeten the deal and the Rockets have a trade.
Chriss fractured his fibula in January and wouldn’t suit up for the Rockets before he becomes a free agent this summer, and Paschall, who showed signs of optimism as a rookie, has struggled in his sophomore year. He could be that undersized stretch four the Rockets could look for as they try to replace P.J. Tucker.