Ladies and gentlemen, it’s trade season. As of today, NBA players who signed contracts this summer are eligible to be moved.
As Houston Rockets fans, we should temper our expectations. Rafael Stone hasn’t shown a particular fondness for wheeling and dealing during his tenure with the team. It seems as if he’d rather do nothing than get fleeced — nothing wrong with that.
We all know who the obvious trade candidates are on this team. Eric Gordon and Kenyon Martin Jr. could be headed elsewhere at any given moment. Jae’Sean Tate could probably get moved in the right deal as well. Garrison Matthews, Daishen Nix, Bruno Fernando and even (as I repress tears) Boban Marjanovic could probably be moved to match salaries too.
All reports suggest that the Rockets are stalwart in their asking price of a first-round pick for Gordon. Frankly, I think that’s a little ambitious. On the other hand, including Martin in a package may be able to net one.
I recently wrote a whole piece on why I wouldn’t trade Martin for Jonathan Kuminga. At the same time, rumors are again surfacing suggesting he wants to leave. If Martin isn’t happy, the whole “maintain chemistry” argument kind of goes out the window. If he wants a trade, Stone should shop him.
Moving Tate could get a little hairy. He hasn’t played this year. If someone’s interested in him, he’s a candidate, but Stone needs to avoid selling low on a quality rotation player.
So those are the Rockets’ potential trade pieces. That’s half of the equation here. Who should the Rockets target?
Rockets should pick the pick
The most obvious asset for the Rockets to pursue would be a first-round pick. Meanwhile, the most obvious first-round pick the team could realistically acquire belongs to the Phoenix Suns.
In all likelihood, that deal would have the Rockets sending Gordon and Martin to the Suns, while Phoenix sends Jae Crowder to the Bucks. The Bucks would send Grayson Allen to the Suns, while the Rockets took back Dario Saric, Landry Shamet and the Suns’ first-round pick.
If Martin really wants out, I like this deal for the Rockets. Saric’s contract is expiring. Shamet’s is a little annoying, but it’s not especially burdensome either. Meanwhile, notching another first-round pick in this particular draft should be very appealing to Stone.
If this deal goes through, the Rockets would virtually have to package this pick with the Bucks pick they already own to move up in this draft. There is going to be a significant roster crunch with all the first-round picks the team has made in recent years anyway: a quality-over-quantity approach is key here.
That’s especially true in this draft. Suppose the Rockets end up moving the 29th pick and the 26th pick for the 18th pick. Now, they’re looking at prospects like Grady Dick, Derrick Lively and Rayan Rupert instead of guys like Matthew Cleveland and Julian Strawther. That’s a different tier of prospect.
Are there players that are already in the NBA that the Rockets should be looking at?
Another popular scenario has the Rockets sending Gordon to the New York Knicks in exchange for one of Evan Fournier or Derrick Rose and one of the Knicks’ younger players.
The difference between Fournier and Rose is vast. Fournier is on a bad contract — the Rockets should insist on a good young player if they’re taking it on. Quentin Grimes or Immanuel Quickley would be good candidates.
On the other hand, Rose is on an expiring contract. A veteran point guard could be valuable for this team’s development too. If the Knicks are willing to send him instead of Fournier, maybe taking a flier on Cam Reddish becomes more palatable.
With that said: I’m out on Reddish. All the way out. He hasn’t proven anything at the NBA level. If Gordon for Rose and Reddish was the deal, the appeal lies in landing Rose. Reddish is little more than a lottery ticket.
On that note: Gordon to the Los Angeles Lakers for Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn feels like a possibility. I don’t love it. Sure, Beverley is a veteran point guard, and reuniting with him is fun. He’s also having a crummy season. I don’t see how that deal benefits the Rockets unless the Lakers are including a first-round pick — which they won’t. Their future picks are highly valuable assets, and if the Lakers are moving any of them, they’re angling for a bigger fish than Gordon.
What big fish could the Rockets angle for?
Pie in the sky targets
I’m just going to entirely retract my previous article. If Martin wants out, and Houston can package him with Gordon and the Bucks pick for Kuminga, Stone should make it happen.
Otherwise, options are kind of limited. It would be premature to make a massive deal for a star.
Could Mo Bamba be a good option? Saddiq Bey? Collin Sexton? I’m uninspired. I wouldn’t fork over anything of significance for any of those guys, but that’s not to say Stone wouldn’t.
Anything can happen during NBA trade season.