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A NBA trade game for Rockets fans

Who do you like best? Take your pick.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to 2024, Houston Rockets fans, and the Roadtripus Horribilus.

With a frustrating trip, some frustrating play, and the approaching NBA trade deadline (Thursday, February 8), lots of thought and talk has turned to Rockets trades. Some of those trade ideas are at the margins, and some are quite a bit more extreme in concept.

So let’s play a little trade game. Let’s assume contracts, years, etc are equal.

ONE- Would you trade Player A for Player B?

A: 19pts/9rbs/1ast - 43%FG, 55%TS .7VORP

B: 26pts/9rbs/2ast - 50%FS, 64%TS, 3.3VORP

TWO - Would you trade Player C for Player D?

C: 10pts/3rbs/2ast - 43% FG, 53%TS, -0.1VORP

D: 15pts/2rbs/5ast - 44% FG, 59%TS, 1VORP

THREE - Would you trade Player E for Player F?

E: 13pts/4rbs/3ast - 39%FG, 50%TS, -0.4VORP

F: 19pts/5rbs/5ast - 46%FG, 59%TS, 0.7VORP

FOUR - Would you trade player G for player H?

G: 10pts/6rbs/1ast - 52%FS, 55%TS, -0.6VORP

H: 6.3pts/4rbs/1ast - 68%FG, 68%TS, -0.2VORP

This isn’t a difficult little game, is it? I’d imagine you’d pretty much always prefer the second player in a group. Even if counting stats stay the same, or get worse with the player, efficiency always improves.

The trick is that A and B, C and D, E and F, G and H are the exact same player. The lower letter is their age 21 season, the higher letter is their current season (well, I played a little loose with One, which is last year, to make a point.)

ONE is Lauri Markkanen in his age 21 season and at age 25 (last season).

TWO is Malik Monk in his age 21 season, and at age 25 (this season).

THREE is Coby White in his age 21 season, and at age 23 (this season).

FOUR is James Wiseman in his age 21 season, and at age 22 (this season).

The interesting thing about all these players is that they were considered “busts” early in their careers, and all but one player is now with a different team, or even a third team, from the one that drafted him.

Markkanen at 25 became one of the more valuable players in the NBA, on his third team. Malik Monk was considered a washout by many, but this year is probably the best scorer off the bench in the NBA and probably wins Sixth Man of The Year. He was a wildly inefficient player in his early seasons, but now the development curve seems to be a nearly vertical line. Neither Charlotte nor the Lakers are enjoying this surge, however.

Coby White was considered one of the worst guards in the entire NBA. Now he’s looking like a breakout player.

James Wiseman? Well, even if James is considered a total wipeout, he may not be one. He’s only 22. His FG% and TS% are now in line with a real NBA center. There’s a lot more to go, but again, he’s only 22. Can you look at Markkanen at 25 and tell me there’s no hope, even for LiteYrs2Trax Wiseman? (Well, maybe.)

The point of this exercise isn’t any of the players above, of course. It’s about Jalen Green.

I: 17pts/5rbs/4ast - 40%FG, 53%TS, 0.2VORP - age 21 season.

Do these numbers look similar to other age 21 seasons on the list? They do to me.

Of course this isn’t a guarantee of anything, and no, not every player on this list was chosen with such high expectations and had the burden of a rebuilding franchise placed on them immediately. It’s certainly possible that Jalen never improves from this point and really is a bust. It’s also possible that he turns it around and that the crucial requirement is time.

Coby White came into the NBA at 19 as well, and his age-19 season was considerably worse than Jalen’s. We saw Coby White simply light the Rockets up last week. Everything about his numbers suggest a player that’s still growing.

Personally, I’d hate it if Jalen turned into SG Lauri Markkanen, or broke out into one of the most lethal minute-for-minute scorers in the NBA, like Malik Monk, for a team that isn’t the Rockets simply because everyone (including management) got frustrated and impatient.

Take a deep breath.

This is how development often looks. No player on this list, except maybe The Finnisher, is at typical peak age, even.

It may be season three, but it’s also age 21. Not every player is a star at that age. In fact most, by overwhelming margins, aren’t. Does it foreclose superstardom? Maybe, but being a star, or a good player at, say, age 24 is a long way from busting.



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    Centered. Cleansed. Calm.
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    Box breathing underway.
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