With the NBA Draft just over three weeks away, the Rockets are fielding offers to possibly move up or down from the second overall pick.
If the Pistons opt to roll with Cade Cunningham at 1, the Rockets face a decision at 2 between Evan Mobley and Jalen Green. But what if they let the team picking at 3, the Cleveland Cavaliers, make that choice for them?
In the projected trade, the Rockets send the second pick to Cleveland with John Wall for the third pick and Kevin Love. That’s it. That’s the trade.
Why Houston Makes The Deal
The Rockets benefit from this trade for a few reasons, especially if Evan Mobley is the desired target for the Cavs. This would allow the Rockets to take Jalen Green at 3 and start with a starting backcourt of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green from Day 1.
There are concerns as to whether John Wall’s usage would cut into KPJ and Green’s. Having lineups with those three guys is plausible, but Wall plays best when the ball is in his hands. The same can be said for KPJ and Green, but unfortunately for the Rockets, there’s only one basketball on the floor at all times. You simply cannot put all of those guys in the best place to succeed when all three of them are on the floor simultaneously.
Attaching Wall with the second pick frees up space in the backcourt, but it also gives you a Kelly Olynyk replacement in Kevin Love. With Olynyk in free agency this offseason, the Rockets have no guarantee in bringing him back to Houston.
Love also makes roughly $10 million less per year than Wall, which frees up cap space the Rockets can use to add free agents that could help the team in the short term.
If you also throw in the added benefit of Love’s knowledge on mental health, which would be a bonus for his former Cavs teammate Kevin Porter Jr., who Love once called ‘by far’ the most talented player on the Cavs.
Why Houston Doesn’t Makes The Deal
The Rockets run the risk of not getting their top choice between Green and Mobley. The Cavs could bluff their true intentions of making the trade and pick the guy the Rockets wanted all along. However, if you make this trade, you have to be happy with either Mobley or Green.
That being said, it would be very odd if the Cavs traded for John Wall and then selected Jalen Green with the second pick. That means that the Cavs would employ Wall, Green, Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Isaac Okoro. They have to have some semblance of size. This isn’t 2016 anymore!
The trade of Wall and Love only makes sense if the Cavs really want Mobley, as Wall is likely a better fit for wherever Mobley goes and Love is a better fit for wherever Green goes.
Why Cleveland Makes The Deal
You get 100% assurance that Houston doesn’t take your guy at #2. The scenario reminds me of the 2017 NFL Draft, where the Bears traded up from 3 to 2 with the 49ers to take Mitchell Trubisky. Part of the reasoning behind that was to ensure that no other teams would trade up with the Niners to steal Trubisky at 2 and the same applies here.
The Cavs also move on from Love, who has seem to run his course in Cleveland. Dealing Love also opens space in the frontcourt for a potential Mobley-Jarrett Allen pairing. While Allen is a restricted free agent this summer, the Cavs are likely interested in bringing Allen back. If the team drafts Mobley at 3 and re-signs Allen, you’re looking at a Mobley-Allen-Love rotation where you’re either benching the young Allen or Mobley, or you’re paying Love over $30 million for a bench role. Drafting Mobley will result in an imminent Love trade, so why not kill two birds with one (Rafael) Stone?
Why Cleveland Doesn’t Makes The Deal
This whole trade is contingent on Collin Sexton, who has been dangled in trade rumors throughout the offseason. Sexton appears to be a trade target with multiple teams in the East, including Miami and Philadelphia.
Adding Wall with Sexton and Garland would create even more of a logjam there, but removing Sexton from the equation in a different trade would likely need to happen in order for the Rockets and Cavs to complete business here. Maybe you include a third team in on this trade to send Sexton away, but it only muddies this trade.
However, the Cavs could be in trouble if they take Green and then have a lineup with Sexton, Garland, Okoro and Green. It just doesn’t make sense for all four of those guys to play at the same time. This further explains the necessity for the team to move on from Sexton, but if the market isn’t high on him, there’s no reason to trade your leading scorer from last season.
Ultimately, I do think this is the biggest holdup of this potential deal and why this deal wouldn’t happen if explored. The trade is more favorable towards the Rockets, which is why I propose it on a Rockets blog, but it is important to see all perspectives of this.
That being said, I do think each team has more pros than cons to making this trade happen, but the biggest things that hinge on this deal are whether Cleveland is willing to take on Wall and pair him with Garland and/or Sexton and if Cleveland is really targeting someone specific between Green or Mobley. If they’re happy with the leftovers, then the trade won’t happen, but the Cavs are a little further along in their rebuild than the Rockets and need to have some form of direction otherwise they likely set themselves further back and disallow their early draftees a full chance of succeeding.