Ideal Trade Partners for Houston Rockets During 2014 Offseason
The 2013-14 Houston Rockets weren’t exactly a disappointment, but their warts became clear.
The offseason should revolve around improving in two key areas: perimeter defense, and leadership. But adding any significant salary will almost certainly have to be done via trade—the Rockets are already nearly capped out with their contract commitments heading into next season.
General manager Daryl Morey has suggested that upcoming tweaks will be in the role-player department. “We’re always aggressive. We’ll always explore aggressive scenarios,” he said in a Q&A with the Houston Chronicle.
But I feel confident if those don’t emerge, we’re not far off. We need to get (the win total) into the high 50s if we’re going to be as good as we want to be. We need to improve our defense primarily. We were the youngest team in the league (in the postseason, fourth youngest and second least experienced in the regular season) and improving, so an addition or two are key. I feel confident we can make that step forward that we need to make.
As has been the case for a while, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin are both well-paid and relatively expendable players. Whom will Houston find as suitors for either (or both) of the two and receive valuable assets in return?
New York Knicks
No—we’re not talking about a sign-and-trade for Carmelo Anthony. Although the New York Knicks' leading scorer and best player has been linked to the Rockets in rumors for some time now, per Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (h/t Fansided), there’s a much more elegant Rockets fit on the Knicks roster.
He is a terrific, lengthy wing defender and a selfless teammate who could easily fit into the Rockets system. But he’s making just a bit more than $6 million over the next two seasons combined, which means he’s one of the only Knicks with both on-court value and a reasonable contract.
Prying him away from new executive Phil Jackson won’t be easy. Jackson may be willing to take on Lin, Asik or both—but the Rockets will have to throw in a sweetener and likely also take back a less optimal contract.
Enter Chandler Parsons. The happy marriage between Parsons and his team is bound to end one way or another, as the versatile scoring wing is wildly underpaid, and the Rockets will have a hard time making room for him under the cap when he doesn’t address any of their most pressing needs.
Parsons hasn't dealt with his impending contract issue yet, but he knows it's coming. "It’s going to come to a point I’m going to have to," he said to Houston Chronicle. "I know it will be an exciting time. It’s why I hired (agent) Dan Fegan to do what he does. I’m sure I’ll be talking with Daryl a lot this summer.”
If Parsons doesn't like what he hears from those talks, he could become a key trading piece for the Rockets.
As for the extra piece the Rockets might need to take back? His name is a dirty word to many, but he's a great talent who can still change games with his hot scoring streaks: J.R. Smith. Would the Rockets be willing to take him on as a wild card?
But on their roster is still one player who could make a big difference in Houston—Avery Bradley.
Once regarded as one of the best emerging defenders in basketball, he has become an afterthought in Boston's rebuilding process. The Rockets should take advantage while his stock is relatively low.
What would it take to get a deal done? Morey and Celtics GM Danny Ainge have already bartered to a standoff over the services of Asik, and any future attempts at a deal may hit a similar wall. Both general managers are notoriously difficult to trick, and their failure to make a swap for the center hit a snag when Morey was unwilling to give up an additional draft pick.
But after a sour first-round postseason exit, the Rockets may have a greater sense of their clock ticking on the window of title contention. If they're more generous this time around, they could inherit someone in Bradley, who's sure to make the difference they need.
He is a restricted free agent this summer, so the Celtics have a modicum of leverage as to where he goes. A sign-and-trade for Asik directly could help both sides get what they want and match salaries.
New Orleans Pelicans
A little known fact: Jrue Holiday was one of the NBA's best defensive guards last season.
With a defensive real plus-minus of 2.0, per ESPN.com, he ranked third among all point guards in defensive difference. He's also capable of guarding 2-guards—although he may struggle with lengthier wings.
But the NBA is getting smaller and smaller, and Holiday could make James Harden, the infamously terrible defender, less of a liability on the other side of the ball.
Holiday and Asik have nearly equivalent salaries, and Asik is a great fit next to Anthony Davis. A true frontcourt player who focuses on the dirty work of the paint makes sense next to Davis as he develops his perimeter game and becomes perhaps one of the most unique talents in the league.
The Pelicans are fond of Holiday, but he's a ball-heavy guard with Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans—something has to give in New Orleans' backcourt. The Rockets may also look to expand the trade to include Ryan Anderson, the stretch 4 they've long been said to envy, per Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Such a coup would likely require some extra grease on the wheels, and Parsons is again the name that comes to mind. Matching salaries in such a large deal might necessitate bringing in extra teams and finding a suitor for Lin simultaneously.
We couldn’t leave without mentioning this one. Kevin Love is on the trading block.
He may not bring the defensive hammer the Rockets are looking for, but he’d turn their offense into a ridiculous force. Arguably the best outlet passer in basketball, he would help Houston’s transition leak outs with his dominance on the boards and subsequent quarterbacking.
He also stretches defenses as a player with both a formidable post game and a prolific history from beyond the arc. Rockets fan salivate over Love, and they’re right to.
The only way to get him? Sell the farm. Houston would have to win a large bidding war for the All-Star by offering up hoards of draft picks and youth, like Parsons and Troy Daniels. Houston would also have to pawn off Lin and Asik—who are not fits in Minnesota—elsewhere. A blockbuster deal of this size would be a tectonic, league-breaking move that would probably need to involve a handful of teams.
Look to the Dwight Howard trade of 2012 for recent precedent—a four-team, 11-player bonanza the likes of which is rarely seen. That's what we're talking about here.
It’s a complex process, but Morey is surely taking a look at it. He always does.