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Rockets trades, free agent signings continue, unfortunately

AKA “Thanks,I hate it.”

2023 NBA Playoffs - Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies
Great. Super.
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

I’ve spent the day, and evening sequestered in a quiet, dark, cool space, trying to find my center.

No, that’s not true. I’ve spend most of the day having a nice time with friends and family. Now I must face the dread and terror of The Rockets Free Agent Signings and Trades.

I’ve covered the Fred Van Vleet, aka Velvleeta, deal here. Upon learning more, I’m now happy with the deal, as it appears that the Rockets will have a team option in the third year of the contract. So the initial announcement was to get the years and money out there for the agent, and the player, and to perhaps offer a single finger salute to the Raptors management. (It’s always wise to wait until the details emerge before going berserk. Then, put on that bear shirt.)

Per Jackson Gatlin of “Locked on Rockets” the final year of Fred Van Vleet’s contract contains a team option. This, then, is much as many of us discussed, and should be no issue when it comes time to sign Rockets draft picks such as Jalen Green, and Alperen Sengun. Under the “Brewster’s Millions” scenario created by the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement this is a decent deal. Van Vleet should immediately help the Rockets in areas where they truly do need help.

Next up came the Rockets following their fairly recent path of “Oh, you didn’t like THAT player? YOU’ll REALLY HATE THIS ONE.” This, for me, started with Dwight Howard, went on to Chris Paul, whom I truly came to admire, and then turned downwards, straight into the abyss, with the disastrous trade for Russell Westbrook. Westbrook - the living antithesis of Rockets basketball philosophy at the time, but friend to powerful NBA superstars who like him a lot.

Now comes Shirtless Vest Enthusiast and Failed Lebron James Taunter, Dillon Brooks. Brooks is on a much lower level than those other guys, that makes it easier to say “Nah.”. There’s just not much I like about his game. He’s a bad offensive player. He’s a tedious agitator. He takes cheap shots and then acts like a victim, a lot.

Worst of all? He really, truly ,thinks he’s cool. His behavior in the Lakers v Grizzlies series seemed to get the Memphis team owner involved in saying Dillon would not, under any circumstances, be re-signed by the Grizzlies. If you’ve ever watched the Grizzle you know that as a team, they’re pretty damned annoying. So, wow, well done, Dillon, you made a vulture sick.

Now, to my astonishment and delight, Dillon Brooks is going to be a Rocket, for four years, $80 million dollars. According to Kelly Iko, formerly of this parish, the deal contains no team options, or non-guaranteed salary. What it does contain, fortunately, according to The Woj, is a declining salary.

Now we learn that this deal is also going to be worked as a sign and trade, which seems, so far, mostly to the benefit of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Because signing Dillon Brooks straight up isn’t bad enough, the Rockets have ALSO engaged in a program of trading most of the actually effective players of the past two to three seasons.

Josh Christopher has been traded to Memphis as part of the Dillon Brooks affair. What the Rockets get from Memphis, besides signing a guy that they could just sign anyway is unclear. Some more cap room, that they desperately didn’t need. Did the Rockets essentially pay the Grizzlies to take Josh Christopher? It looks that way.

But wait! There’s more!

The Rockets also traded KJ Martin to the LA Clippers for, I dunno, a bag of basketballs and some practice pennies. No, wait, it’s two second round picks, one a Memphis pick in 2027 , and a Clippers second rounder in 2026. Any protections are currently unknown. Maybe the Rockets will get lucky in the second round and pick a player as good as KJ Martin, in 2027. Outstanding.

But wait! There’s still more!

The Rockets have also traded Usman Garuba, technically the best shooter on the team, and TyTy Washington, who was taken in the first round last season, and played about 200 minutes in the NBA. Is TyTy bad? Good? Promising? Who knows? It was 200 minutes or so. He and Usman will be Hawks. We seem to have solved some of the Hawks problems, but what did the Rockets get?

This is the best part. Nothing. They paid to do this.

The Rockets paid the Hawks $1 million, plus a Timberwolves 2nd rounder, and their own 2028 second rounder for them to take two first round Rockets picks off their hands, presumably for a Brook Lopez deal that failed to materialize.

Well, to be fair, the Rockets got the rights to Alpha Kaba, whatever that might be. A male “nutritional supplement”? Some sort of “tactical” product named after an animal behavior that doesn’t actually work the way most people think? No, some guy from the Balkans drafted in 2017 who has never played a minute in the NBA.

Yes, my favorite new Rockets, barring Alperen Sengun, from this recent wave of picks are gone. The Rockets more or less paid to make them go. One could argue that the Rockets mastered the art of “Buy High, Sell Low” on these deals, as the value was basically nothing like any sort of first round pick in any case. The fact that much of this was done to facilitate a signing that never happened makes it especially delicious.

Practically speaking, most of these players might have languished, not getting minutes, on the Rockets. TyTy would have been severely blocked from minutes by the never, ever, injured Fred Van Vleet, Amen Thompson, and Kevin Porter Jr.

Usman Garuba spent most of his time being injured.

But what about KJ Martin? What did he do wrong except far exceeding expectations for his draft position? Was two seconds a good return for a guy who might be the Clippers starting SF in a year or so?

Despite being in Stephen Silas’ doghouse, presumably for the sins of higher picks that couldn’t be benched, Josh Christopher remained an interesting player. Gone. For the pleasure of helping the Grizzlies shed a guy they weren’t signing under any circumstances. Maybe there’s an angle we haven’t seen, but right now it looks like something that will come back to bite the Rockets.

Yes, the Rockets really do (did) have a developmental crunch in terms of players. Yes, some players were blocked. Even so, management made that crunch happen, and now its solution with a new coach in town was to simply firesale half the players chosen over the past three years?

Are we sure the Rockets got rid of the right players, or only the ones drafted lower, and thus not such a resume issue for a GM? In any case, it seems a poor return on investment by any measure.

Was there anything I liked today from the Rockets?

Yes, the Rockets signed surprisingly useful Phoenix backup center Jock Landale for a 4 year $32 million deal, of which only the first year is guaranteed.

The Rockets, finally, also traded for Patty Mills somehow. He might be going to Memphis? It’s unclear, but if he doesn’t his deal is expiring after this year, but Ime Udoka would at least have a buddy on the bench.

Aside from my nausea at the sheer waste of today’s execrable trades (again much of it necessitated by the new CBA) in all honesty most of it probably most of it doesn’t matter much to the Rockets future.

Fred Van Vleet is an adult in the room, and an excellent placeholder PG, and either Amen or someone will be ready to take over in two years, or he won’t, and we might get a third.

Dillon Brooks will hopefully be rehabilitated as a player contenders want, and with his declining salary, and the smoothly rising salary cap, he, and his vest collection, will be movable. $20 million is basically “just an NBA guy” these days. A low end starter, or a high end backup. He’ll be getting less than that, into the future, on some scale yet to be revealed.

Jock Landale is fine.

For the Rockets to flourish, Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith, Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore and Tari Eason must flourish. The road is clear. There’s no impetus to play other guys, who might actually play better at time, because those guys are gone.

That’s fine. That’s the bet. But the returns so far, are lousy. And Dillon Brooks will get real minutes.



This poll is closed

  • 15%
    I love it!
    (114 votes)
  • 23%
    I hate it!
    (169 votes)
  • 40%
    What just happened?
    (297 votes)
  • 20%
    Dillon Brooks is gonna love the rodeo.
    (152 votes)
732 votes total Vote Now