The Houston Rockets need help at power forward and making a push for Atlanta Hawks star forward Josh Smith before Thursday's trade deadline would be a move that gives the team an extra push down the stretch. However, fans should not get their hopes up.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, GM Daryl Morey and his front office team are more likely to take a different approach.
The consistent word out of Houston, incidentally, is that the Rockets -- long known to be Smith fans -- are far more likely to pursue J-Smoove in free agency than to try to trade for him this week.
The Rockets are expected to use their leftover salary-cap space from last summer to extract an extra draft pick from teams looking to shed salary for luxury-tax reasons right before the trade buzzer.
As much cap room as Houston will have this summer, with just under $11 million set to come off the books, waiting until free agency to pursue Smith is a bad idea. At that point, Morey would have to compete with every other team in need of help at the 4, and the young Rockets are not exactly in a strong position to immediately and consistently contend.
Sure, Houston has the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference right now, but the team has been up and down all season long even with a solid backcourt tandem of Jeremy Lin and James Harden. The Rockets have gone on a pair of five-game winning streaks, but have also had a seven-game losing stretch.
This can be attributed to a lack of reliability at the 4. Nothing against Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson, but they aren't exactly solid fits for head coach Kevin McHale's run-and-gun system. Morris is just a second-year player that still has a lot to learn about playing on the NBA level, and Patterson is more of a post player than he is a stretch 4.
In acquiring Smith, Houston would receive the best of both worlds. The man has solid size at 6'9", 225 pounds, and has the explosiveness necessary for a run-and-gun system in that he can be both an excellent interior presence as well as a decent shooter/scorer.
This season, Smith has posted 17.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Him going to the Rockets would just provide Lin with another go-to guy, and the team would not become so reliant on Harden for offense.
Making a deal would be tough, as Smith is due $13.2 million this season and Houston would have to get creative in terms of who to include. A straight-up trade including Cole Aldrich, Patterson, Morris and Carlos Delfino would work, but chances are a third team would have to get involved so a complete roster overhaul could be avoided.
Regardless of what happens, Morey needs to get on the phone and make a deal with Hawks GM Danny Ferry as soon as possible. The Rockets are not going to get very far in the playoffs without a solid power forward, if they even make the playoffs at all, and Smith can ensure a successful finish to the season and maybe even some extra noise in the postseason.
As tempting as it may be to wait to woo him to Houston in free agency, taking a risk now and trying to bring him aboard is a far better option.