The Houston Rockets are square in the middle of a rebuild.
It’s not a position the team’s fans are used to occupying. Between 1984 and 2020, this team has had exactly three losing seasons.
The Rockets are an organization that’s associated with winning. These past two years of enduring historic losing streaks and calculating lottery odds have felt altogether uncomfortable. There’s a real hunger in this fanbase to get back to winning and do it quickly.
That’s probably not going to happen before this year’s trade deadline.
Rockets fans are encouraged not to shoot the messenger. We’re just trying to manage expectations. In all likelihood, Rafael Stone is currently targeting first-round picks above all else. This front office also seems to be prioritizing team chemistry and continuity. Rockets fans may have to, if you’ll forgive us, trust the process.
Here are three trade targets the team could pursue in case that premise is entirely wrong. After all, the NBA is nothing if not unpredictable.
Speaking of unpredictability, the Sacramento Kings are apparently toying with the idea of blowing it up.
Or they’re fully committed to building around a backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton.
Unless they can trade the former for Domantas Sabonis, or something.
It’s hard to know what the Kings might do because frankly, it’s always been hard to know what the Kings might do. As it stands, they have two starting-caliber point guards in Haliburton and Fox, and a third flashing starter potential in Davion Mitchell.
That’s a lot of starting point guards for a team on track to miss its 15th consecutive postseason.
If the Kings are open to dealing one of their promising young floor generals, Haliburton would be the best fit for the Houston Rockets. As a versatile 6’5 combo guard, he’s capable of co-existing with both Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. He can play in the backcourt alongside either, and he’s already cut his teeth lining up at small forward in 3-guard formations.
Haliburton would fill two pressing needs for the Rockets: floor spacing and playmaking. He’s shooting 41.6% on five three-point attempts per game this year, as well as dishing out 7.2 assists to go with only 2.2 turnovers per game. Those numbers speak of a malleable, high IQ basketball player who is only 21.
In all likelihood, he’d be the hardest guard to pry from Sacramento’s desperate hands. Here’s hoping Stone has at least put a call in.
They say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. There’s been smoke around Collins’ relationship with the Hawks for so long that it’s probably time for him to stop, drop and roll onto a different NBA roster.
Any readers that are concerned about working Haliburton into the Rockets’ talented backcourt rotation should prefer Collins. With all due respect to fan favorites like Jae’Sean Tate and KJ Martin, Collins would be a clear, instant starter with this group.
As one of the league’s premiere stretch 4s, Collins would allow Coach Silas to continue with his five-out spacing philosophy. Functionally, he’s similar to Christian Wood as he can roll or pop in equal measures out of pick-and-roll sets.
Luckily, that’s a skill set that doesn’t overlap. Wood and Collins would make a lethal frontcourt pairing in terms of opening up the floor for Houston’s promising backcourt. Or, if Wood were involved in a trade for Collins, the current Hawk would make a great target for Alperen Sengun’s prolific passes.
Collins is also a solid defender. He’s got the verticality to protect the rim (especially as a weakside shot blocker) as well as the lateral mobility to survive in space. For a team with the league’s worst Defensive Rating (115.0), that value can’t be overstated.
Reports indicate that the Hawks’ asking price for Collins includes a first-round pick. The Rockets sure do have plenty of those, but Stone may conclude that they’re still in the hoarding stage of this rebuild.
It’s not very often that a recent second overall pick finds his name in even a single trade rumor. With that said, it’s not very often that a second overall pick gets drafted to a contender and immediately underperforms.
Wiseman’s perpetual place in the NBA’s rumor mill is owed to that perfect storm. He looks like he needs time to develop, and with an aging core, the Warriors may not be able to afford it.
The Rockets, on the other hand, have nothing but time.
Wiseman still oozes with potential. Even though he’s demonstrated limited offensive skills (the phrase “bad hands” seems intrinsically tied to him), his combination of length and leaping ability could at least make for a high-end defensive player. He’s also flashed some ability to space the floor, canning 31.6% of his 1.0 three-point attempts per game last season.
Rockets fans should picture Clint Capela with range, and ask themselves if they might be willing to wait for that outcome.
It’s unlikely that any of these 3 players will be finding their way to Space City over the 2021-22 season. Rockets fans should be looking at lesser names. The front office may be wise to collect picks, rather than part with the ones that would probably be necessary to net any of these starrier players.
Until that deadline passes, we’re all allowed to dream.