The Houston Rockets have emerged as one of the deadliest offensive teams in the NBA this season, as most recently shown by their 140-point outburst against the Golden State Warriors, in which the team tied an NBA record with 23 made three-pointers.
However, despite their offensive dominance, the Rockets are a heavily flawed team, particularly on the defensive end. Houston has a solid chance of reaching the playoffs, but if this team wants to actually contend in the postseason, it may need to explore some potential trades at the deadline.
Any trade by the Rockets must work towards improving two key areas: defense and rebounding. And, ideally, it would address those problems from the power forward position.
So who are the three most logical targets?
In a recent article I argued extensively that Paul Millsap should be the Rockets' primary trade target at the deadline. I continue to hold this opinion, for the following reasons:
Millsap is an obvious upgrade over Patrick Patterson offensively, as he posts superior numbers while playing in a much slower system. And while Patterson has evolved into an effective stretch 4, he cannot match Millsap's deadly mid-ranged jumper or his all-around versatility as a scorer.
More importantly, though, Millsap is a major upgrade over Patterson in terms of his defense and rebounding. Patterson has been an underwhelming presence on the boards this season, and though he is taller than Millsap, he is a suspect defender. Millsap, meanwhile, is a tremendous ball thief and solid shot-blocker who overcomes his vertical disadvantages by being a pest on defense.
In Houston, Millsap would be a safe bet to average around 18 points per game, along with solid production in the rebounds and steals columns.
The most easily recognizable player on this list, Josh Smith has earned great adulation throughout his career for his incredible finishing ability, lockdown defense and remarkable versatility for his size.
Unfortunately, he also has plenty of critics, due to questionable shot selection and a tendency to clash with the coaching staff.
Despite his flaws, Smith should certainly be on Daryl Morey's radar, as he is a spectacular defensive player whose elite athleticism would allow him to thrive in Houston as a secondary scorer to James Harden.
The main problem with Smith is that he seems intent on gauging his value on the open market once he hits free agency this summer. As a result, there's always a chance that any trade the Rockets assembled for Smith might end in them receiving nothing but a rental.
Smith would be a risky acquisition, but as long as Houston can convince him to re-sign immediately, it would be well worth it to bring in this versatile defensive menace.
Who Should the Rockets Target?
On paper, Derrick Williams doesn’t look like a huge upgrade over Houston’s current power forwards. And at first, he might not be. But what separates Williams from Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris is his remarkably high ceiling. Patterson and Morris are both solid stretch 4’s, but neither can match Williams’ athleticism or finishing ability.
Williams wouldn't necessarily remedy Houston's issues defensively or on the glass, but he could be a major help in the long run. Also, he would likely come at a highly discounted price based on his true value, as he has struggled to fit into Minnesota's system and has yet to show consistent production this season.
Williams shouldn't be at the top of the Rockets' wishlist, but he could be a decent fallback if the team is unable to acquire Millsap or Smith.