The Houston Rockets Win NBA Trade Deadline in a Landslide

Bryan ToporekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 22:  Kevin Martin #23 of the Sacramento Kings moves the ball against the Charlotte Bobcats during the game at Bobcats Arena on February 22, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Kings won 116-115.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With 16 of the 30 NBA teams getting busy in the week leading up to the NBA trade deadline and making some kind of deal, it seems kind of crazy to weed through the mess of trades and pick out a winner six hours after the deadline.

This could change weeks, months, even years down the line, but on paper, six hours after the trade deadline has passed, one team jumps out more than any other as the clear "winner" of the trade circus.

Houston Rockets...come on down! You've just won the "Who can hose a team the worst at the NBA trade deadline?" contest this year!

Get ready for a whole new round of ESPN 's Bill Simmons slurping the genius of Rockets' GM Daryl Morey, as the stats-whiz has turned his roster of role players into a likely playoff team this year, and a legitimate Western Conference threat next year.

In the offseason, much was made about the Rockets' essential swap of Ron Artest, widely known as one of the league's premier defensive stoppers, for the Lakers' Trevor Ariza, a 23-year-old who proved last season that he could be a critical role player for a championship team.  

I don't need to add any thoughts on that trade, largely because I think the trade actually made sense for both teams.  

But man oh man did the Rockets just take advantage of the league's largest expiring contract.

The Rockets shipped Tracy McGrady's $22 million expiring contract out to the Knicks in a three-team deal that ended up netting them Kevin Martin from the Kings.

[The whole trade: The Rockets get Martin and Hilton Armstrong (Kings), Jared Jeffries and rookie Jordan Hill (Knicks), the ability to swap first round draft picks with the Knicks in 2011 (top-10 protected), and the Knicks' first-round pick in 2012; the Kings get Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey (Houston), and Larry Hughes' $13 million expiring contract (Knicks); the Knicks get McGrady (Rockets) and Sergio Rodriguez (Kings).] 

In other words, the Rockets mortgaged the Knicks future for the next few years with Hill and their two first-round picks, and shipped them a player that wasn't playing for them for a proven 20-point scorer.

The loss of Landry may hurt some for the rest of the season, but when Yao returns, Landry would have been bumped to the bench anyway. Besides, Jeffries is a warm body that's 6'11", and he was getting rotation minutes for the Knicks. There's no reason to think that the Rockets, who start a 6'6" center in Chuck Hayes, wouldn't want to throw Jeffries into their lineup to give them some different offensive looks.

Granted, adding Jeffries and Martin means that the Rockets won't be major players this summer when players like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh may be looking for new teams...but when you look at their roster, is that really an issue?

Assuming Yao comes back healthy next year, they can tentatively start a lineup of Aaron Brooks, Martin, Trevor Ariza, Luis Scola, and Yao, with Shane Battier, Hayes, Jeffries, and Hill coming off the bench. That's an insanely talented lineup, and a very deep team to contend with the solid benches of the West.

If the Wizards end up waiving center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (they're widely assumed to do so), allowing him to go back to the Cavs, then Cleveland could be a contender for the biggest winner of the trade deadline.

But the Rockets' savvy move set them up with plenty of talent now, and even more talent for the future.  

Maybe I shouldn't make fun of Bill Simmons for slurping the Rockets' GM after all.