Houston Rockets' Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint

Matt DagostinoContributor IFebruary 10, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 19: Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets speaks during a press conference announcing the signing of Jeremy Lin at Toyota Center on July 19, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Fans of the Houston Rockets know what they want general manager Daryl Morey to do before the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 21.

Some want him to go all in and bring back one of the premier names on the trading block. Others want him to swing a smaller deal or two to add pieces to the supporting cast. Still others would like Houston to stand pat and save all its assets for the summer and beyond.

That is the perception of what should be done. But what should happen? And what will actually happen in reality?

The Rockets are currently a fringe playoff team, hanging onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With their current roster, they are a first- or second-round playoff team.

To make the next step and become a contender in the West, a significant move will have to be made.

The easiest place to make an upgrade is at the power forward position. Patrick Patterson, the current starting 4-man, is the least entrenched starter on the roster.

Power forward is also the position with plenty of available alternatives with guys like Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Andrea Bargnani, Carlos Boozer and Kevin Garnett all available to certain degrees.

Beyond an impact upgrade at power forward, the Rockets could stand to add some depth on the wing positions.

The rumored interest in Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger seems to have fizzled out, with ESPN's Marc Stein writing:

Maybe there is enough time before this month's trade deadline for Indiana to find a trade partner willing to gamble on Danny Granger. This much we do know, though: It's not going to be Houston. One source with knowledge of Houston's thinking left little doubt that recent reports portraying the Rockets as a potential suitor for Granger, as they were in the past long before James Harden showed up, were inaccurate.

That move would have pushed Chandler Parsons to the power forward, and Granger would slide in at the other forward spot.

More realistically, the Rockets could use someone who could fill a wing position as a reserve. Carlos Delfino is their only consistent long-range threat off the bench.

The Rockets are the youngest team in the NBA, and clearly, the best days are ahead of this team. So, how can they specifically upgrade the roster, and what is the right way to do it?


What the Rockets Should Do

Let's get the power forward situation figured out before the rest of it.

For the long-term plan of this team, there is no justifiable way to make a trade for any of the aforementioned power forwards before this season's trade deadline.

To get any of them, it will take at least a couple rotation players and a draft pick or two. For example, to get Paul Millsap from the Utah Jazz, the Rockets would have to part with guys like Marcus Morris, Terrence Jones and Delfino. That is a lot for a team still trying to build a complete roster.

The main reason why it makes little sense to make a trade like that is the fact that Millsap, Jefferson and Smith are all free agents at season's end.

Why trade away multiple pieces to the puzzle when a) that guy might up and leave in the summer and b) Houston could sign one of those guys as a free agent and not have to forfeit any players in a trade to acquire him.

It is best for the Rockets to wait until the offseason and sign one of the power forwards. Millsap makes the most sense for what he brings at both ends of the floor, his age, his work ethic and the way he would fit into Kevin McHale's up-tempo system.

There are moves to be made before the deadline this year, though. Most importantly, the Rockets could stand to add another bench shooter and a defensive stopper.

The New York Knicks have buried Ronnie Brewer on the bench lately. With the Rockets allowing 102.9 points per game (fourth worst in the league), they could stand to add a long-armed defender like Brewer to the fold. If the Rockets could pry him away along with Chris Copeland and James White for Patterson, that would be a decent return.

The trade that ties in a bit better for Houston's long-term plans would have them adding MarShon Brooks of the Brooklyn Nets. At 24 years old, Brooks is three years younger than Brewer and is a known scorer after scoring 20 or more points nine times in 2011-12, his rookie season.

But Brooks is averaging just over 11 minutes a game this season after getting almost 30 a game in his rookie campaign. He has scored in double figures just once in his last 14 games because he just is not in the rotation much.

To get Brooks (for, say, Marcus Morris) would give the Rockets a go-to guy off the bench to give them an offensive lift.

If Houston acquired Brooks, its depth chart would be as follows:

PG:  Lin, Douglas, Beverley

SG:  Harden, Brooks, Anderson

SF:  Parsons, Delfino

PF:  Patterson, Jones, White

C:  Asik, Aldrich, Motiejunas, Smith

Then, if they were able to add Millsap in the summer, the Rockets could have a starting five of Lin-Harden-Parsons-Millsap-Asik. They would be able to bring Brooks and Delfino as scorers off the bench.

The youngsters like Jones and Motiejunas might be able to contribute more with a year under their belts. The wild card, White, may have put his off-the-court issues behind him and become the versatile force the Rockets imagined him being when they drafted him.

Following that blueprint gives the Rockets one of the better starting units in the NBA in the 2013-14 season, a team that stretches 10-deep and a lot of depth to still pull off another deal at next year's deadline to further bolster the club.


What the Rockets Will Do

Daryl Morey has never been shy about making trades, having consummated 32 of them in nearly six-year tenure as Rockets GM. He is constantly working to make any move he thinks will improve the team.

But he's got a good thing in place right now. It's plain to see this Rockets team is in the beginning phase of its ascension toward becoming one of the league's elite teams. Heck, three of Houston's starters are in their first season on the squad.

Knowing that the best days are ahead of them as long as they continue along this path, it's hard to see Morey mortgaging away the future for any short-term gains this season.

Morey will not make a move just to satisfy an itch or because he has a reputation to uphold as a gunslinger executive. He's too smart for that.

It would not be surprising to see the Rockets stand pat at the deadline. In fact, smart money would say the Rockets roster will look just the same after the deadline as it did before it.

If a move is made, it will be a move to get a guy like Brooks, somebody who can help incrementally this season but is designed to help them next season and beyond.


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