As an NBA fan, I love the trade deadline.
Who doesn’t? As the league moves and shakes, it’s exciting to watch it happen. On the other hand, as a Houston Rockets fan, the deadline has been fairly underwhelming in recent years.
That’s not to say Rafael Stone has mismanaged it. His job is to make prudent decisions, not exciting ones. I personally liked last year’s Theis trade. Say what you will about Bruno Fernando, but he’s a sensible third-string big for a team in the Rockets’ position to roster. That’s about as much as they were going to get for Daniel Theis.
Anyway. We’re not here to talk about last year’s deadline, are we? We’re here to talk about the upcoming deadline.
Who could the Rockets trade?
Rockets trade candidates
There are no secrets here. The most likely Rockets to get traded are Eric Gordon and Kenyon Martin Jr.
If the Rockets don’t move Gordon this season, the Rockets may finally fill the Toyota Center: with rioters. At the same time, nobody should envy Stone here. Moving Gordon won’t necessarily be easy.
It’s not that he’s grossly overpaid. More accurately, Gordon is in a pay range that few win-now teams can match while still upgrading their roster. Most players making Gordon’s money are either better or roughly equal. Contenders won’t make a lateral move to acquire Gordon — they value continuity.
On the other hand, Martin Jr. would be easy to move. This is a young wing with elite run-and-jump athleticism who’s already productive at 22. Of course, the Rockets are only likely to move him if rumors about his unhappiness are true or there’s a deal on the table they can’t pass up on.
Otherwise, guys like Fernando, Garrison Matthews, and Boban Marjanovic won’t be off the table if they make the money work. Even Jae’Sean Tate shouldn’t be untouchable. It is doubtful that the Rockets will move any of their first-round picks from the last two years.
With all of that in mind, who should the Rockets target?
Rockets trade targets
Recently, John Collins has been the hottest name in Rockets rumors. I’ve made my feelings clear: he’s worth the Rockets’ upcoming first-round pick from the Bucks, but anymore draft capital and they ought to pass.
Speaking of passing, Lonzo Ball makes similar money to Gordon. He’d be a high-risk, high-reward target. It isn’t clear whether Ball is ever going to be able to play regular NBA basketball again. Still, if he can, he’s exactly what the Rockets need.
If they are after a point guard, there may be other options. If the Rockets are happy to flip Gordon for a veteran floor general and a handful of second-round picks, Patrick Beverley would be a very realistic target.
Could they arrange something that lands them Ricky Rubio in a three-team deal? Perhaps one that sends Gordon to Phoenix, and Jae Crowder to Cleveland? Of course, we can’t forget everybody's favorite Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish return.
Alternatively, there are some young point guards on the market, too. Either one of Bones Hyland or Immanuel Quickley could potentially be had in exchange for Martin Jr. and the Bucks pick.
Should a backup big man be in the cards? Mo Bamba is probably the most intriguing option. I like Moses Brown. As always, nobody cares.
Jarred Vanderbilt is a name that’s popular with Rockets fans. He’s a native Houstonian. Vanderbilt isn’t necessarily a traditional big man, but he’s a combo big who plays with tremendous energy and feel.
Meanwhile, the best Rockets’ target isn’t a player at all. It’s draft capital. With that said, the dream of a first-round pick for Gordon is as dead as Woodstock. Get it out of your mind — it isn’t happening.
Gordon should be able to net a handful of second-round picks, but if the Rockets want a first-rounder, they probably have to part with Martin Jr.
I’ll throw one more target out there that doesn’t have any traction in the rumor mill. Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks is an interesting player. He’s a multipositional defender who covers an absurd amount of ground in transition. He’s been buried behind Julius Randle in the Knicks’ rotation for a long time, and it feels possible that he’s a breakout candidate on the right team.
NBA trade rumors: Eric Gordon has fourth-best odds of moving at NBA trade deadline
Meanwhile, our partners at DraftKings have got you covered if you want to place some bets on the deadline.
The most interesting bet in the Rockets’ sphere might be Eric Gordon’s probability of getting moved. DraftKings has him with the fourth-best odds of getting traded in the entire league at -200. Only Jae Crowder, O.G. Anunoby and Cam Reddish have higher odds, with Bojan Bogdanovic and Mason Plumlee tying Gordon.
Honestly, the better bet may be on Gordon staying put. I’m not saying that’s what I’m expecting will happen. Still, there are, as mentioned, complications in a Gordon deal. Stone has also had two quiet deadlines in a row. If you’re feeling a little brave and want to make some cash, bet on Gordon remaining in Houston.
Just don’t do it within earshot of a Rockets fan.