Big names are out there on the NBA trade market. Some of them are just a couple weeks away from shipping out to new teams.
In the case of the Houston Rockets, the prudent strategy would be to save their assets and attack free agency in the summer as the best way to improve the roster.
But while fighting for a playoff spot this season, what more subtle moves can general manager Daryl Morey make to improve the Rockets' chances of playing in the postseason?
Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett and Andrea Bargnani are all names being bandied about as power forwards who may be available in trade talks. This space has been used several times to illustrate that the 4-spot is the position in biggest need of an upgrade in Houston.
But those names will cost the Rockets guys like Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Terrence Jones or others. While they would gain a solid power forward presence, the Rockets would lose most of their depth and create holes in other areas.
Guys like Smith, Millsap and Al Jefferson will all be free agents in the summertime and can be had for just dollars and not talent. If the Rockets can sacrifice more short-term benefits that would come with a big trade this season in favor of added depth and more talent by going the free-agent route, it will set them up better for long-term sustainability.
Bleacher Report's own Preston DeGarmo detailed some areas the Rockets could improve upon, namely defense, the power forward spot and ball control. Three-point shooting and even a better back-up point guard would be nice, too.
Who fits the bill without breaking the bank?
Minnesota's Derrick Williams has failed to live up to expectations as a former No. 2 pick out of Arizona. Is he a small forward? A power forward?
While the Rockets wait until the summer for the big-ticket free-agent power forwards, Williams could serve as a place-holder and then get pushed to a reserve role should somebody like Millsap sign with Houston. A Williams for Marcus Morris and Toney Douglas swap might make sense.
Also in Minnesota, Lou Amundson has reportedly considered that he might be traded (via the Minneapolis Star Tribune). Going back to his days in Phoenix, Amundson has been a high-energy rebounder and defender who could help the Rockets inside. Pair him with Williams in a package for Patrick Patterson, Douglas and Cole Aldrich.
Marreese Speights was just traded from Memphis to Cleveland. Could he be on the move again? Since averaging 15 points and seven boards a game for the Cavs, Speights has proven useful when given minutes. Can the same Morris-Douglas package get it done for Speights?
Which power forward would help the Rockets most?
Charlotte point guard Ramon Sessions is an expensive option ($5 million this year and next). But with a career-high 14.9 points per game, Sessions would be an offensive boost off the bench at the point guard position. Patterson-Douglas for Sessions may help both sides.
Along the same lines, Detroit's Will Bynum is an offensive-minded point guard. With Jose Calderon coming aboard in Detroit to join Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, the Pistons may deem Bynum expendable. The Pistons would presumably want one of either Morris or Patterson in return or perhaps Carlos Delfino. There doesn't seem to be as much value attached to any of those scenarios.
Phoenix Suns guard Sebastian Telfair's career has been a disappointment when compared to the hype he garnered coming out of Brooklyn's Lincoln High. But, he has carved himself a nice little niche in Phoenix, averaging 6.1 points and 2.5 assists in 17 minutes a game. As with Bynum, there are no great value trades that scream "pull the trigger."
Which point guard would help the Rockets most?
Orlando is really struggling and J.J. Redick is in high demand. So, this may not qualify so much as under-the-radar. But Redick is no superstar. What he is, though, is a great pure shooter who is averaging 15 points a game and shooting 40 percent from three-point land.
Right now, Delfino is Houston's only consistent long-range threat off the bench. Orlando is searching for young talent and/or draft picks. Would Marcus Morris and Terrence Jones be enough to pry Redick away?
There has got to be a fit between the Rockets and Wolves. With Williams and Amundson already noted as possible low-profile additions, J.J. Barea could add some punch to Houston's bench. Maybe Minnesota would be interested in Williams-Barea for Morris-Douglas and a future draft pick.
A starter early in the season for the New York Knicks, Ronnie Brewer has only logged double-digit minutes for Mike Woodson once in the past month. A spindly-armed defender, Brewer can guard multiple positions and is on a team-friendly contract (one year, $854K).
The Knicks don't have a lot of players they are looking to move. But maybe Brewer, Chris Copeland (three 20-plus point games in his rookie season) and James White for Patrick Patterson swap may be feasible.
None of these moves will really move the needle too much. They could bolster the Rockets' playoff chances slightly this season and perhaps add a young piece for the future to put around a new, shiny power forward acquisition in the summer.