It's that time of year. It's trade deadline day in the NBA. Teams are looking to add the player they think can push them over the top, dump salary or sit on the sideline and watch all the other teams make moves. During the James Harden era in Houston, the Houston Rockets rarely let a trade deadline pass without making any moves.
Daryl Morey went all in year after year, trying to maximize the Rockets’ championship window. These days, however, the Rockets aren't in the business of mortgaging the future to win now, as they are now in their third year of rebuilding. That's not to say they won't make a minor move, for instance, trading away Eric Gordon to open up playing time for their recent draft picks. But even if they don't make a move today ( I know Rockets Twitter would lose it), the Rockets are already one of the winners of the trade deadline.
I am sure you are asking how that could be the case considering the Rockets haven't even made a trade. However, the reason had nothing to do with the Rockets, at least directly. Instead, it has to do with the Brooklyn Nets, who have gone from contenders two weeks ago to a team today that is now in the midst of their own rebuild.
How the Rockets are already winners at the trade deadline
When the Rockets finally gave into Harden's trade demand, there were a lot of media personalities and fans who thought the Rockets got back a bad of stale chips and a six-pack of RC Cola(do they still make that). Many thought the Nets draft picks the Rockets received wouldn't amount to much, considering the Nets new big three.
This is hilarious. What they got back from the Harden trade was historically, comically, unfathomably bad and this dude is excited.https://t.co/R6O3yD0Y62— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 12, 2021
Surprisingly enough, the first domino to fall was Harden, who requested a trade out of Brooklyn a few months into his second season. No exact reason has been put there, but many believe Harden didn't want to continuing playing with Irving due to his lack of availability at the time. It also didn't help that Durant was dealing with injuries, leaving Harden as the sole star, the exact reason he wanted out of Houston in the first place.
The next domino to fall happened less than a week ago when seemingly out of nowhere, Kyrie Irving demanded a trade out of Brooklyn. Irving and the Nets tried to agree on an extension, but the two sides weren't even close, leading to Irving's trade demand. Keep in mind the Nets were finally looking like contenders out East. Durant was close to coming back, and the Nets had a legitimate shot at making some noise in the playoffs before the Irving trade.
As most of us were asleep (yes, I was knocked out), the final domino fell as the Brooklyn Nets traded Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns in a deal that included Mikal Bridges and several first-round picks.
The Nets are trading Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns for a package including Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, four first-round picks and additional draft compensation, league sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. https://t.co/fJoFHv3i7M— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 9, 2023
This trade was less of a surprise, considering Durant almost forced his way out earlier this season, and with no Irving on the roster, Durant wasn't going to stick around for a rebuild. Bridges and the impressive rookie Cam Thomas now lead the Nets. Thomas has been on a roll lately, scoring 40 points in three straight games, but this roster is far from the one the Nets had just a week ago.
The Rockets control the Nets picks for the next several seasons.
2023 Nets 1st round pick swap
2024 Nets 1st round pick
2025 Nets 1st round pick swap
2026 Nets 1st round pick
2027 Nets 1st round pick swap
They control the Nets picks up until 2027! This gives the Rockets a ton of flexibility. They can hold onto the picks and see if the Nets can build their roster back to contention. They can also make a move sooner and not take that chance. With the Rockets going all in on the playoffs next season, they could use the potential of those picks to lure in good to star-level players that may come available.
The Rockets went from supposedly getting swindled by the Nets to controlling some of the most coveted future picks in the NBA. The Rockets could make zero moves today and still come out as winners. It is almost like owning a stock no one has ever heard of that started off at a dollar a share, and everyone asks you why you bought that stock. It isn't worth anything; three years later, it is worth $200 a share. You could ride it out and see if it goes higher or cash out while the getting is good.
The fact that the Rockets even have that option is why I say they are already winners this trade deadline.
The Rockets made a couple of moves before today's trade deadline.
The Clippers are acquiring Rockets guard Eric Gordon in a multi-team deal, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
The Rockets will get rights to swap Bucks’ pick with Clippers this year as part of this deal, per source. https://t.co/41RrVWfBa3— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) February 9, 2023
The Rockets also received John Wall in a cruel twist of irony, even though it is reported he will be waived. Danny Green will also be sent to Houston, but there's no word yet on whether he will join the team.
The Rockets also sent out Bruno Fernando and Garrison Mathews to the Atlanta Hawks for two second-round picks, veterans Justin Holiday and Frank Kaminsky.