Jeremy Lin struggled in the playoffs; could he be on his way out of Houston?
The 2013 offseason is lining up perfectly for the Houston Rockets to make a massive transaction in free agency, but one trade could improve the team even more.
Whether the signing is Dwight Howard, Josh Smith or another big man, the Rockets are going to need more than a post presence.
With Thomas Robinson, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas fighting for minutes, Houston is already loaded at the power forward position. Throw Royce White into the equation, and the Rockets are stuck with too many players and not enough time in the game.
An easy way to fix the logjam after adding a game-changing big man is to trade one or two of the power forwards on the roster, but what move should GM Daryl Morey consider making?
The Rockets' core is made up of center Omer Asik, small forward Chandler Parsons and shooting guard James Harden.
Let's assume Houston signs Howard, Smith or another forward such as J.J. Hickson or Paul Millsap, so 80 percent of the Rockets' starting rotation is very good.
As for point guard, Patrick Beverley performed surprisingly well in the playoffs, and more importantly for him, Beverly outplayed 82-game starter Jeremy Lin.
Lin played reasonably well during the regular season, averaging 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and 2.9 turnovers, but his production drastically plummeted during the playoffs. Houston, in fact, lost all four games to the Oklahoma City Thunder when Lin played, yet went 2-0 in his absence.
His contract may have seemed like a good idea last offseason, but the truth of the matter is Lin was paid based on his torrid streak covering 11 games in February, 2012. He averaged 20.9 points and 8.4 assists per game during the tear, but that level of production cannot be expected from Lin every game.
Before his injury later in March 2012, Lin averaged 14.6 points, 6.3 assists and 3.8 turnovers per game during the month. Those stats are 100 percent comparable to what he accomplished during the 2012-13 regular season.
Should Houston dump Jeremy Lin because of his contract?
Per Hoopsworld.com, Lin is due $8.4 million per year for the next two seasons, and that is simply not a good deal for the Rockets. With Harden's salary nearing $14 million in 2013-14 and the outstanding chance Houston signs a big-name player in free agency, a trade involving Lin must be considered.
He is certainly a solid player, but Houston can trade Lin and one of its talented power forwards for a comparable point guard with a better contract.
Out of the four aforementioned power forwards, NBA teams would be most interested in 21-year-old Terrence Jones due to his age, ceiling and because he contributed remarkably well despite his limited minutes.
Jones played at least 20 minutes in six of Houston's last eight regular-season games, and his production was outstanding. In those six games, Jones averaged 11.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per outing.
So, to which team should the Rockets shop Lin and Jones?
Cuban would love to have the international following Lin brings to his Dallas team, and Jones is a promising young player. Besides, the outrageous $8 million contract of Chris Kaman is up for the Mavericks, and while Jones is not a center, he is far more affordable and athletic than Kaman.
Anyway, a practically identical player to Lin is the Mavericks' Darren Collison, who will be 26 years old at the beginning of next season. Collison has a single year left on his contract and is due just $3.3 million in 2013-14 per Hoopsworld.com.
Collison tallied 12.0 points, 5.1 assists and 2.1 turnovers per contest in 2012-13, but ESPN's Hollinger Stats rank Collison above Lin in true shooting percentage, assist ratio, turnover ratio, player efficiency and wins added.
If the Rockets' front office could swing a deal for Collison and a second-round pick, Houston would have a marginally better point guard for $5 million cheaper.
Plus, with the emergence of Beverley as a borderline starter, the Rockets have an opportunity to draft a project guard with the Dallas' 44th overall pick.
An intra-division trade would surely be difficult to complete, but Houston's front office must consider shipping Lin and Jones to the Mavericks to improve the team and save a little extra cap space for a monster deal in free agency.
Like, you know, a Dwight Howard signing, for example.