I hope the headline doesn't sound callous. What the Houston Rockets should be thinking about, they are thinking about: Sasha McHale's family. The whole team traveled to Minnesota in between back-to-back games to pay their respects to their coach's late daughter.
As thoughts eventually creep back to the game itself, the Rockets, always looking for a way to get better, find themselves a mere 7-8. Granted, the team has been in all their games except the post-funeral contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Staring at their lackluster results, though, the trigger-happy Rockets just might be motivated to make another trade.
Any of the other three, though, just might propel the Rockets into the upper stratosphere of the playoff picture.
Stats are accurate as of 11/28/12.
The blockbuster deal that brought James Harden to the team cemented four of the five spots in the starting lineup. Harden was anointed The Man when he took over the 2 spot just as the season dawned; he's lived up to the moniker. Harden's currently second in the league in shooting guard efficiency, behind only Kobe Bryant.
Though Jeremy Lin has struggled this season, his contract and high profile indicate the team and the point guard will be together for the long term. In addition, Lin has already developed a loyal and vocal Houston fanbase.
Chandler Parsons has been a revelation. The 39th overall pick of the 2011 draft is second on the team in minutes played, points and rebounds and third in steals. “Chandler’s not bad for the 38th pick, huh?” asked acting head coach Kelvin Sampson (via the Houston Chronicle). “Chandler’s just a winner."
Parsons has improved his perimeter shooting, and he credits the improvement for allowing him to drive to the hoop more frequently.
And that giant sucking sound you hear when the starting lineup is on the floor? That's Omer Asik. And no, I'm not saying he sucks. Quite the contrary: Asik has sucked up almost 30 percent of opponents' misses while he's on the floor.
Asik doesn't light things up efficiency-wise, but he's improving all the time, using his big body to set screens, and he is scoring with more authority. I don't think the Rockets want him to go anywhere.
That leaves only Patrick Patterson, who's having a solid season, but to whom most fans point when they think about a possible upgrade to the lineup.
Patterson had a career-high 27 points and six rebounds against the Thunder, continuing arguably the best run of his career: 20-plus points for the third time in the last four games. Still, with the Rockets' record as it is, fans will be clamoring for change. And Patterson's recent success will be enticing as potential trade bait.
Who might the Rockets target?
It would be cool to see Stoudemire suit up for Houston. Though his skills are not what they once were, he is still a big-time offensive option and would open things up even more for Harden.
The problem is the numbers. The Rockets simply don't have assets that would offset Stoudemire's massive salary, and he's not worth his contract right now. This trade ain't gonna fly unless it's a three-way thing.
There are two problems here. One is the numbers: Gasol is owed a fortune—$19 million over the next two seasons—and the Rockets have nothing to offset that.
The other problem is what the Rockets have to offer in return. The Lakers, in giving up one of their big-time names, would want something significant. Because the Rockets have been prudent in their contracts, they just don't have anything to pony up.
Low risk, big reward.
Derrick Williams, who did not impress to the Minnesota Timberwolves satisfaction while he filled in for Kevin Love, has fallen out of favor in Minnesota in only his second season. Incredibly, the "bust" moniker is already being bandied about.
But Williams, a tremendous talent out of college, has never been treated like a No. 2 overall pick. I sense that if this kid is flat-out given a position and told it's his to lose, he might yet emerge as one of the best in the game.
The kid reminds me of the journey Chauncey Billups once took: third overall pick, never properly groomed in the Boston Celtics offense, traded to several teams, bounced around and then was declared a career backup—without any team ever really giving Billups a serious shot at starting.
After a solid stint filling in for Terrell Brandon, Joe Dumars took a chance and handed Billups the keys to the car, telling him the point guard position for the Detroit Pistons was his.
The rest is Finals MVP history.
If the T-Wolves do declare bust, it might well behoove the Rockets to swoop in and steal Williams away for a fresh start that might lead to the same happy ending.
Minnesota coach Rick Adelman would value Patterson's big body, work ethic, and recent scoring prowess. But Minnesota general manager David Kahn will want to save face as much as he can, because of Williams' high draft position. For both those reasons, Minnesota will probably want a draft pick too.
Houston should gladly throw one in, or offer Royce White (see next slide) as a deal incentive.
And if Williams disappoints for Houston, Marcus Morris can always step into the starting lineup, leaving Williams as a capable backup.
So for Houston, this would seem like a sure thing.
This one is awfully hasty. But the reality is that the Rockets have rolled out the red carpet for Royce White and his health challenges. After seeming appreciative initially, White has been sharply critical of the franchise of late.
No matter whose side you're on—with the little I know, I'm on management's, though I have much compassion for White—the gut feeling is that this acrimony is going to destroy whatever chance White had to be happy as a Rocket.
The wise move might be to cut bait now and try to give up an intriguing prospect for an even more intriguing one. Bismack Biyombo is an athletic big man, best suited at power forward but now backing up at the center position for the Charlotte Bobcats.
I don't know if Charlotte makes this trade. Biyombo was drafted seventh overall, and the Bobcats have said they're committed to grooming him. In addition, giving up Biyombo leaves Charlotte with no long-term answer at center. Houston would certainly have to throw in their first-round pick from Toronto, which figures to be anywhere between No. 4 and No. 14 in the 2013 draft.
The Rockets can also sweeten the pot by adding Daequan Cook to the deal. Charlotte's current 2-guard, Jeffrey Taylor, is not exactly shooting the lights out. Cook has experience and can start and allow Ben Gordon to still come off the bench. To even out the money, Charlotte could toss in Cory Higgins.
If the Bobcats are tempted by the extra firepower White could provide, they might—might—bite on this trade. And that would be good news for Houston.
Michael Beasley was one of the transcendent college players in this millennium. But his pro career has never quite taken off.
It appears Beasley has fallen out of favor in Phoenix, and though the franchise had high hopes for Beasley, they might be talked into a deal.
Alvin Gentry has his hands full with an unhappy Marcin Gortat, so Patterson's workmanlike, get-'er-done playing style would be a welcome change for the Suns coach. And the franchise would certainly be tempted by Patterson's current high-scoring run: Patrick could be their starter now, and Royce White could be a future starter.
Meanwhile, Beasley won't be asked to carry the world on his shoulders in Houston—James Harden already has that job. The 6'10" forward just needs to be an upgrade over Patterson and make Rockets fans forget this whole Royce White debacle.
Beasley has the talent to pull it off.
Since he has been around for a while and has failed for the most part to elevate his game, this is a riskier trade than the one proposed for Derrick Williams. But if the Rockets want to win now, and if Beasley is motivated, he can help get them there.