If you’re a Houston Rockets fan, you had to love Rafael Stone’s 2022 draft.
Perhaps you wanted Paolo Banchero. Rumor has it that some people on Twitter did? In any event, he wasn’t on the board. On the other hand, if you wanted anyone other than Tari Eason at 17, you and I now have a personal issue.
Either way, you had to love Stone’s haul conceptually. Versatile, defensive wings populate every contending team in this league. Prior to the draft, the Rockets were low on versatile, defensive wings. Stone took an opportunity to add two of the best of their class in one draft.
You had to love it. Unless, of course, your name is Kenyon Martin (junior or senior).
Apparently, Martin Jr. has issued a trade request. It’s understandable. If he’s going to be getting buried on the bench, he’d probably rather at least be on a winning team. Smith Jr. blocks his path to the starting lineup, and if Eason makes good on the potential many see in him, the Rockets may have some decisions to make soon that don’t even involve Martin Jr.
I’m not necessarily advocating for a Martin Jr. trade here. If he rescinds his request, or the situation remains professional enough for the Rockets to keep him in spite of it, I’m personally in no rush to see him go.
Yet, I can’t help but think of potential targets from the moment I read the words “trade request”. Personally, I oscillate in and out of a fantasy world in which I have Rafael Stone’s ear: don’t we all?
Here are a few trade targets that crossed my mind.
Should the Rockets target a backup big?
It feels like the obvious choice. The Rockets don’t currently have a backup center who is on the team’s timeline. No, I’m not forgetting Usman Garuba, and yes, I would like to see him get minutes at the five this season: but I’m talking about a center.
As in, a seven-footer (or close to) who cleans the glass, protects the rim, and generally takes up space. With those criteria in mind, I found three targets I’d consider realistic in exchange for Martin: Charles Bassey, Udoka Azubuike, and Moses Brown.
Per BBall Index, each cleared the 90th percentile in defensive rebounds per 75 possessions last season. On the other hand, Brown distinguishes himself in terms of rim protection: he landed in the 85.9th percentile, while neither Azubuike nor Bassey cracked the 80th.
Unfortunately, the Clippers need size, and they don’t need wings. If Brown-for-Martin Jr. doesn’t work on their end, Azubuike is probably a better option than Bassey. He ranked in the 98.1st percentile in points per possession as a roll man, whereas Bassey was just in 68.8th.
Personally, I really like Udoka Azubuike. He set an NBA combine record for a vertical leap for a center at 37 inches. The kid weighs 270 pounds. That is insane.
On the other hand, the Jazz are rebuilding themselves - they may prefer to keep their homegrown talent. By that logic, Bassey feels like the most available of these targets, especially given that the Sixers just signed Montrezl Harrell.
If I were Stone, I’d pass. I did my share of digging, and I didn’t find anything in Bassey’s statistical profile to suggest he’s got much upside.
With that said, it doesn’t have to be a center the Rockets target either.
Are there other good options for the Rockets?
I already did a whole piece on Cam Reddish. Just click here. In summary, I’m basically lukewarm, but he’s a reasonable target if Martin Jr. is really pushing his way out.
I know our fans hate Coby White for injuring somebody. Was it Jalen Green? I sincerely can’t remember, and Google isn’t helping. Either way, he could be an option. I’m not his biggest fan, but he is a recent lottery pick with some remaining upside.
With that said, Boston Celtics floor general Payton Pritchard might be a better guard option. White feels like a poor man’s Kevin Porter Jr., whereas Pritchard would bring a different element to the team as an elite floor-spacer and lower usage, game-managing point guard.
With that said, Bassey isn’t the only potentially available Sixer. Paul Reed is an intriguing young player on their roster. On the other hand, as a defense-first wing, he’s likely to run into the same rotational issue that Martin Jr. is. We know Coach Silas will prioritize Smith Jr., and he’s likely to give Eason the nod over Reed as well.
The Rockets shouldn’t rush this decision
Are you feeling a little uninspired by these options?
Same. With that said, Martin Jr. isn’t likely to command much on the market. He’s outperformed his draft position, but production from young players on bad teams tends to get discounted. Martin Jr. is an elite athlete, but he’s got a ways to go in terms of skill development.
For now, the best deal might be no deal at all. If Martin Jr. has his “this situation is crazy and I don’t think it can be fixed” moment, Stone might want to entertain some of these targets:
Just don’t hold out for four unprotected first-round picks and three swaps.