Last night was fun, wasn’t it?
Well, it depends on your definition of “fun”. It depends on how you process and enjoy basketball. That was a fun game if you’re the type of person who can put your rooting interests aside.
If you’re not, it was a root canal.
At least Jalen Green played well. That was the right decision, by the way. Green was aggressively trapped without any daylight. He did what anyone does in that situation: he passed. He found Landale, and Landale was supposed to find Aaron Holiday for a wide-open corner three.
Landale attempts the layup. A Dream Shake writer audibly laughs in a room by himself. Even if the layup had gone in, it would have cost the Rockets the game. The Rockets were dying of thirst in a desert and Landale forcefed them a big pint of pure poison. Their body rejected it and they died of thirst anyway.
Still, Green played well. He played well in the last outing against the Phoenix Suns too. Caveats apply in both cases. Against Phoenix, Green went 6/12 from long-range. That doesn't feel sustainable. Last night, he aggressively attacked the rim - against a team that played 43 minutes of small ball out of necessity (Mo Bamba got a five-minute shift).
You play the cards that you’re dealt. Green has played well for two consecutive games. Cue the flash-dancing mob.
Should the Rockets acquire an off-guard anyway?
Could the Rockets trade for a guard?
This doesn’t even have to be about Green. The Rockets need guard depth. Amen Thompson isn’t going to be carrying the second unit this year. He flashes his unlimited potential in every game, but he also has spells where he can’t do much of anything. Thompson will be fine - likely better than fine - but he needs time.
Aaron Holiday needs a reduced role. He’s mostly been a pleasant surprise this year, but he’s not a lead guard. Ergo, the Rockets don’t have a lead guard in their second unit.
So there are functional rotation reasons to get another guard. Yet, there could be some advantages in bringing in a guard who can press Green. Green is a dog, right? That was the predraft buzz. He can handle a little internal competition - and if he can’t, he’s not who the Rockets need him to be, and we’re getting a starting caliber guard.
Who should the team target?
Which guards could the Rockets look at?
From a win-now perspective, Alex Caruso is the dream. Virtually every advanced stat says that this guy is the best defensive guard in the NBA. Caruso is shooting well too. He can play the one, two or three in a pinch. This is the guy who can secure a play-in bid (if not a low playoff seed) for the Rockets in 2023-24.
If there’s an issue, it’s his age. Caruso is 29. Yes, the Rockets are trying to win - but they aren’t title contenders. It’s still worth considering a player’s age if they’re going to acquire him.
How about Immanuel Quickley? Rumors have suggested that the Knicks don’t want to pay him. Yet, this presents its own problem for the Rockets. Should they want to pay him? Quickley needs an extension this summer. Green and Alperen Sengun need extensions next summer. (Editor’s Note: Quickley was traded minutes after this piece went live.)
This feels like Tomorrow Rafael Stone’s problem. Today Rafael Stone should at least take a look at Quickley. We can pencil Sengun’s big extension in right now, but the organization ought to let Green hit restricted free agency if he doesn’t turn his play around in the next season and a half.
If he does, it shouldn’t be difficult to trade Quickley. He’s very good. Quickley can create shots, he’s a solid floor spacer and an effortful point-of-attack defender.
There’s another young guard who fits that description that might be on the trade market. He’s also on a fairly reasonable deal through 2025-26. Could the Utah Jazz make Collin Sexton available?
His per-100 stats this year are impressive. Sexton also has a reputation for playing hard - he could be a Udoka favorite.
In theory, Quickley or Sexton are coming over to pilot the second unit (Caruso is more of a general depth piece - he lets Udoka stagger the starters more). In a sense, they’re replacing Kevin Porter Jr. - who was going to push Green anyway if he wasn’t an awful person.
With that said, if Green doesn’t turn it around, either Quickley or Sexton could take his place. This is something we need to be thinking about. As of now, Green has had two good games in a row.