5 Best Potential Trade Targets for Houston Rockets to Form Big Three

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIMay 31, 2014

5 Best Potential Trade Targets for Houston Rockets to Form Big Three

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    The Houston Rockets need to improve drastically in order to compete for a championship in the Western Conference. That likely means general manager Daryl Morey will look long and hard for a strong third wheel to help out James Harden and Dwight Howard

    Now, the case can be made that the team already has a Big Three in Howard, Harden and small forward Chandler Parsons. After all, the Florida product is only 25 years old and continues to get better every season. 

    However, the Rockets' recent history under Morey has been to respond to disappointment by making a huge splash. For example, the GM didn't let Omer Asik coming off a career year stand in his way of signing Howard last summer. 

    Parsons is coming off a career year in his own right. He averaged 16.6 points and 5.5 rebounds (both career bests) while shooting 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from downtown. In the playoffs he scored 19.3 points and grabbed 6.8 rebounds per game. 

    All that matters, though, is the Rockets were bounced out in the first round for the second year in a row. With so much potential star power available via either trade or free agency, someone like Parsons can easily go from rising star to trade bait. 

    The assembling of a talented trio has been the NBA's biggest fad for some time now. The Boston Celtics did it with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. That led to two NBA Finals appearances and a championship.  

    After disposing of the Indiana Pacers for the third year in a row, the Miami Heat will be making their fourth straight run to the NBA Finals on the strength of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. That trio has already won two titles with a solid chance at bringing a third back to South Beach. 

    With two members of their own Big Three already in place, who should the Houston Rockets target to be their third man? 

5. Ersan Ilyasova, F, Milwaukee Bucks

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    When people talk about putting together a Big Three, Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova isn't one of the names that normally come up. He's not exactly a household name and has never been an NBA All-Star, despite being in the league for six seasons. 

    Instead, he is a highly capable stretch 4 who can also handle business on the glass. He's also Houston's most realistic trade target, given the team's lack of resources. For as much as people seem to love Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, those guys aren't fetching many big fish in a trade. 

    Ilyasova would be a slight upgrade over current starter Terrence Jones, albeit a more expensive one as well. The 27-year-old from Turkey is owed $7.9 million apiece for the next two seasons with an $8.4 million team option for 2016-17. 

    His sweet outside touch (just less than 37 percent from three for his career) would help space the floor and give Dwight Howard room to breathe in the paint. Also, at 6'10", his size would be a plus when Houston battles teams with a strong frontcourt. 

    Back in February he expressed interest in being traded, citing frustration with the team's fluctuating roster. "The thing I’m upset about is each year, each season, we go through the same thing," Ilyasova said, per JournalTimes.com. “Last year, we make the playoffs and now we start all over again. That’s really frustrating."

    There's been no real movement since his demand, and the Turkish forward hasn't reiterated his desire to leave. However, with the Bucks already having pieces up front in John Henson and Larry Sanders, Ilyasova can be expendable. 

    As for what it would take to pry him from the Bucks, there are a couple of options. Lin would give Milwaukee a natural point guard and allow it to shift Brandon Knight to the 2. Asik would be nice insurance for the troubled Sanders. Either player plus a prospect or draft pick should do the trick.

4. Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks

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    The prospects of New York Knicks forward and possible free agent Carmelo Anthony coming to Houston continue to get bleaker. The Rockets expressed interest in him back in March, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, but there are doubts that they have the pieces to pull off a sign-and-trade.

    Most recently, new Knicks president Phil Jackson advised Anthony to hold off on opting out for one more year, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

    I told him it might be a good idea to hang in here and see what it’s like for a year, and go out the next year, Jackson said. But I just offered that as: ‘Look, this gives you an opportunity to see how this is going to change, see how we’re going to get going, your relationship to the team and the coach and the system or whatever.

    According to Isola, 'Melo told The Zen Master he'd "think about it." Whether Anthony was just paying his new boss lip service remains to be seen. Still, if Jackson is already in Anthony's head about staying, that would put another wrench in Houston's pursuit of the former Syracuse star. 

    If he does indeed test the waters, the Rockets' only chance of acquiring him would be a sign-and-trade. From there, you start looking at possible trade assets. Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin are the obvious names. 

    Beyond that, it comes down to how much Daryl Morey wants to blow up the team to bring in a third superstar. Do you throw in Terrence Jones or Chandler Parsons or both, if it means getting back 'Melo? 

    The upside to adding Anthony is obvious. He's one of the game's best pure scorers and makes an already imposing offense even more explosive. Defensively, however, the combination of Anthony and James Harden could be disastrous. 

    There would also be the issue of trying to divide touches among three alpha dogs all playing in the same starting lineup. 

    As with any big addition, there are going to pros and cons. Trading for Anthony has its warts, but you can't overlook how tough Houston will be to stop on offense with this newly minted Big Three. 

3. Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    By now, you might have heard that Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love would like to be traded. If you haven't, it's nice of you to join us from under the rock you've been living. 

    Much to the surprise of no one, Love's desire to leave the T'Wolves brought nearly every NBA team out of the woodwork with its best trade offer. According to a tweet from Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Houston is among those teams and cites Love's bond with head coach Kevin McHale as one of the key reasons. 

    As with Carmelo Anthony, the possibility of Houston landing Love comes down to what it can offer. Unlike the New York Knicks, the Timberwolves don't have a need for two of Houston's most common trade chips.

    Minnesota doesn't need Omer Asik. It already has Nikola Pekovic at center. The team doesn't need Jeremy Lin running point because Ricky Rubio already handles that job.

    That means Houston has to dip into its share of blue-chip prospects. Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Robert Covington and Troy Daniels all become options.

    If Daryl Morey was willing to make anyone other than James Harden and Dwight Howard available in a trade for Carmelo Anthony, per Steve Kyler of BasketballInsiders.com, then you have to think the same would hold true for Love. 

    Like 'Melo, the addition of Love would make Houston exponentially better on offense. Additionally, as a big man who can shoot from the outside, his presence would stretch the floor and makes life easier for Howard. The Rockets would also dominate the glass with two of the best rebounders in the game on the floor at the same time. 

    Love's work on the boards is what gives him the slight nod on this list over Anthony. 

    However, as with Anthony, the improvement that Love brings on offense also comes with his trademark matador defense. For a team that struggled with stopping Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the playoffs, it may not be wise to acquire a big man who makes your interior defense weaker.

    Still, Morey's infatuation with stars is almost Copernicus-esque, and Love fits the bill. If a deal can be made, it will be tough for the beleaguered Rockets GM to pass it up, given how the team finished the season. 

2. Andre Iguodala, SF, Golden State Warriors

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    Allow me to clarify before any overreaction ensues: There has been no indication that the Golden State Warriors would be willing to trade Andre Iguodala to Houston or anyone else. 

    That being said, if any star fits the bill of what the Rockets need the most, it's Iguodala.

    Houston's Achilles' heel this season was its perimeter defense. It was so bad down the stretch that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer lit Houston up to the tune of 51 points on April 11. Finding someone who can stop opposing teams' best option on the wing is a top priority.

    That's why Iggy is so high on this list. Sure, he's not available for trade, but what if he was? Wouldn't his stellar defense be more important than anything Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony can offer on offense? The answer should be a resounding yes. 

    Iguodala is one of the league's premier stoppers. The case could be made he would have been a more important addition for the Rockets last year than Dwight Howard. The team could still find a marquee perimeter defender like free agent Trevor Ariza, but that wouldn't give the team the same star power. 

    At 30 years old, Iguodala would be an elder statesman on this Rockets team, but that might be just what the team needs in the locker room. On the court, he could defend shooters like a rabid wolverine while guiding this team properly off the court. 

    Obviously, a trade is far-fetched due to Golden State's lack of interest, but what about a package involving Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik? Parsons would give the Warriors another excellent shooter on the outside, while Asik would be a quality insurance policy at center for the oft-injured Andrew Bogut. 

    The allure of guys like Love and Anthony is understandable. But if Daryl Morey is looking for a prototype for the kind of guy that the Rockets need, he should look no further than Iguodala. 

1. Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics

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    Of the three big names on Houston's trade radar ('Melo, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo), Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo always made the most sense. He's a two-way player with experience playing on a loaded roster that doesn't mind distributing the ball. 

    That's why the Rockets kicked the tires on a Rondo trade back in February and are expected to do so again this summer, per ESPN's Marc Stein

    It's inevitable that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will likewise check in with his old boss Danny Ainge in Boston -- as he did before the trade deadline in February -– just to make sure Rajon Rondo isn’t suddenly available. 

    As has become the theme here, compensation will be key. On the surface, Omer Asik would be a solid starting center in the East, Chandler Parsons is a rising star to build around, and Patrick Beverley would be a decent replacement for Rondo.

    Those three, plus draft picks, are a nice start in any Rondo trade discussion. This is assuming, of course, that Ainge will even make Rondo available. With cap space and a surplus of future draft picks over the next few years, the Celtics are in a great position to return to glory eventually.

    That return would likely start with Rondo, unless the enigmatic point guard has had his fill of Beantown. The former Kentucky standout is a free agent at the end of next season. If Ainge gets an inkling that Rondo will bounce, that's when trade talks will start getting serious.

    For now, the Celtics have to do their own recruitment pitch to keep him happy and show signs that they are willing to build around him.

    As for Houston, there are drawbacks to acquiring Rondo. His personality is a little different from normal superstars, and that could cause a chemistry issue. There's also the concern of how two ball-dominant guards in Rondo and James Harden could co-exist in the same backcourt.

    On the flip side, Rondo is a playmaker who makes those around him better. He's an excellent defender and has proved capable of taking over a game when he decides to flip the switch. If Houston is really interested in making a splash this summer, Rondo would be the way to go.