Breaking Down the Houston Rockets' Best Trade Bait
Sure, it's still early, but it's time to start thinking about making a push for contender status to avoid slowly fading into mediocrity with the current makeup of the roster.
The argument can certainly be made that the current roster is suited to compete with any team in basketball, but most contenders don't mind adding a piece or two before making a championship run (Rasheed Wallace, Pau Gasol both come to mind).
That being said, the Rockets have some trade pieces on their roster with which to play around with. From outstanding draft picks to layers currently with the Rio Grande Vipers, Houston has the talent and assets to make a run at players that might come available.
Here's a look at the team's best trade assets and what kind of talent each might pull.
Houston already surrendered its 2013 pick to the Brooklyn Nets in a prior deal, who in turn sent that pick to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks will own the team's pick this year—a top-14 protected selection.
The other two picks the team acquired in the past year—a lottery protected pick from the Toronto Raptors in the Kyle Lowry trade and a top-20 protected pick from the Los Angeles Lakers via the Dallas Mavericks in the Jordan Hill trade—are both now residing in Oklahoma City as a result of James Harden coming to town.
Still, there's nothing in professional sports that seems to be more variable-driven than the "future first-round draft pick". It's a phrase that seems to resonate with media and teams alike and is at the center of deals where terms can't be reached; it's a way to sweeten the pot.
Houston has been no stranger to trading draft picks. To do so again might jeopardize future status, but the return might be enough to entice GM Daryl Morey to pull the trigger one more time.
G Scott Machado
The rookie from Iona was a long-shot to make the team, but he's impressed the coaching staff enough to stick around through training camp and part of the regular season.
A member of the D-League affiliate now, Machado has performed well, averaging over 13 points and seven assists during his time with the minor league club.
Before the end of the season, Machado has a chance to gain some significant minutes behind Jeremy Lin. The two are similar players—both came from a small school and struggled to make an NBA roster—and having a young nucleus at point guard would be great for the future.
However, if the team decides to use Toney Douglas in the backup point guard role, Machado might be a name that emerges as a throw-in to get something across the table and into the final stages.
There are plenty of teams that kept an eye on this kid during the NCAA season last year, and many will continue to scout him until he returns to the NBA bench.
F Royce White
Royce White hasn't suited up for the Rockets this year.
His battles with personal illness and inability to travel by air have left his future with the team in doubt. GM Daryl Morey continues to stand by his first-round draft pick, but how much longer will Houston wait if the right deal comes along?
My guess is: Not too long.
If the right deal comes along, this guy is an automatic candidate to be included in a deal. Sure, he has the kind of potential to be an immediate stat stuffer and change games, but he can't do that if he's not on the court.
There's no guarantee this guy ever even touches the court. If the Rockets can unload him and get even a draft pick by itself, it's the safe move. Adding him to a package could be beneficial as well, considering he returns to the court after a conversation with his new team.
F Terrence Jones
After averaging 3.7 points and 1.8 rebounds over the first 24 games of the season for the Rockets, Terrence Jones is currently with the D-League club.
The Rockets love the potential Jones possesses. He's a true 3/4 "'tweener" with the ability to guard multiple positions and run the floor with the best of them.
With the way Chandler Parsons is playing and Kevin McHale's penchant for Marcus Morris playing some time alongside Patrick Patterson, there hasn't been much room for Jones to establish a role for himself in the flow of this offense.
By himself, Jones could likely get a first round pick. As part of a package, he's worth a lot more. When Houston goes looking for a backup guard, this guy will be one of the first names mentioned. Houston's desire to include him in a deal might be the difference in getting a role player and getting a difference maker.
F/C Donatas Motiejunas
The 2011 first-round pick wasn't getting much burn up with the big club, so Houston decided to send Donatas Motiejunas down to the developmental league and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
It's highly unlikely he gets traded before the deadline or any other time, as the team really likes the prospects of the first-year pro heading into the starting lineup alongside Omer Asik in the next few years.
Still, you have to give up talent to get talent in return. Motiejunas is likely the best piece the Rockets have to offer by itself, and he could net a significant return in terms of a being the centerpiece of finding a backup point guard or backup shooting guard down the stretch.
Might Toronto be interested for Jose Calderon? Would the Bobcats surrender one of their bright youngsters—Gerald Henderson or Ramon Sessions—for him? That remains to be seen, but it's clear this is the best prospect of finding a true impact player. All talks will likely start and end with him, but a deal including this guy would have to blow the Rockets away.