NBA Trade Speculation: One Deal Ensures Houston Rockets Are Actual Contenders

Joel C. Cordes@@bballJoelNBA Associate EditorOctober 3, 2013

This is a good start for the Houston Rockets, but it can be even better.
This is a good start for the Houston Rockets, but it can be even better.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Saving the NBA one trade at a time isn't easy, but this mega-deal turns the Houston Rockets' logjam into a title-hunting crew while clearly helping three other rosters in the process.

I previously "shared" this particular trade idea with our Sacramento Kings Featured Columnist, Sim Risso, while discussing an article of his that was searching for DeMarcus Cousins help. Yet, it's been sticking with me for awhile, and it was time to delve in further. 

This is the kind of deal that works because it's mutually beneficial. Every team addresses a glaring need while giving up redundant parts of their own. Are they parting with real value? Sure, but they're not giving away anything they didn't already have anyways while swapping for the goodies they crave.

Yes, horrifically complex transactions like this are very rare, but the numbers all match, so let's dare to dream, shall we?

See The Deal:

Houston Rockets get: Goran Dragic (PHX), Channing Frye (PHX), Chuck Hayes (SAC) and protected future first-round pick (SAC)

Sacramento Kings get: Omer Asik (HOU)

Phoenix Suns get: Eric Gordon (NO) and Jeremy Lin (HOU)

New Orleans Pelicans get: Marcin Gortat (PHX), Jason Thompson (SAC) and Jimmer Fredette (SAC)

Why Houston does it:

The Rockets can wax poetic all they want about how Dwight Howard and Omer Asik are going to play together, or take turns or whatever it is they're about to attempt, but it doesn't have to be this way.

Asik's not happy about going to the bench, he can't shoot from outside three feet and he's the sort of logjam luxury a real contender flips for the final pieces. Daryl Morey's too smart to really believe that Asik and Jeremy Lin work here. They're good players, but not for this year's version of the Rockets.

Houston clearly must keep the ability to run and space the floor, but they also need guys who can play off both James Harden and Howard. They've been in the market for a stretch 4 all offseason, but the New Orleans Pelicans haven't bitten on swapping Ryan Anderson.

So it's time to go a different route for the same thing. Channing Frye might be an afterthought after missing all of last year with heart surgery, but he's a savvy vet who will bang home a lot of long balls and has been a starter before. He's 6'11" and mobile, but is a wash defensively. Yet isn't that what Howard is for anyways?  

The Rockets don't need a star at the 4, just someone to trust at the beginning and end of games. They already have plenty of guys to whom they want to give minutes (especially Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones), so Frye fits the bill with the right skill set, resume and placeholding starter role.

The real kicker to the deal is getting Goran Dragic back. Where Jeremy Lin is being miscast alongside James Harden, Dragic is the perfect sidekick. He wants to push the tempo and is incredibly creative off the dribble, like Lin. However, Dragic drives to pass, not to score (unless he has to). He's also far more comfortable working off the ball and packs respectable distance.

Yes, he was already once a Rocket, but he's a clear upgrade at point guard if only because he's such a better fit. 

Chuck Hayes returns to Houston where he once had his most productive days, and Asik's departure means Greg Smith can go back to playing backup center while Hayes and Marcus Camby trade war stories as the sixth big man.

Why Sacramento does it:

The Kings have a logjam at nearly every position, but those are also assets to finally start parceling out. Jason Thompson, Jimmer Fredette and Chuck Hayes all could have a meaningful role on the current Kings, but not with so many competitors presently gobbling up their minutes.

Meanwhile, DeMarcus Cousins has been signed for the long haul, and while he's had to play center plenty of times, he is so versatile offensively that power forward is still his proper wheelhouse.

On the other side, though, Cousins needs defensive help in the worst way. He's not a shot blocker, and his rebounding is transitory, depending on the night.

Enter Omer Asik, who is just begging to remain a starter anywhere that will have him, and he more than proved deserving of it last year. He is the dirty-work front-line sidekick that Cousins should be dying to play with.

Asik doesn't want the ball in his hands, except on garbage buckets and rolls. He just wants to bang down low for double-digit rebounds while annihilating those who drive to the basket or attempt to post him up.

He's everything Cousins isn't on that side of the ball but won't cramp Boogie's style when it comes to scoring boatloads. What's more, Cousins or Asik will play center when stretchy forwards like Carl Landry and Patrick Patterson come off the bench.

Asik makes DeMarcus' Cousins ascent to stardom that much easier, and he's the kind of blue-collar scrapper who the Kings desperately need. Throwing in a future pick for his services now is worth the price considering how many logjams the deal frees up while addressing a real need and giving Sacramento foundational players at four out of their five starting positions.

Why Phoenix does it:

The Suns are looking for a way to turn Marcin Gortat into something usable for the future. Ditto Channing Frye, who may not have much value unless landing on the perfect roster (like the Houston Rockets).

They're currently stuck with the double point guard experiment of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, so it might appear strange to see them getting another like Lin in return.

However, the beauty of this deal is that Eric Gordon winds up in the desert, exactly where he wanted to be this time last year before New Orleans matched the Suns' offer. Gordon may never be a building block star, but he still can be one of the league's best two guards when healthy.

Pairing him with another former L.A. Clipper like Eric Bledsoe makes way too much sense: Gordon is a shooter. Bledsoe is certainly not. Bledsoe is a bulldog defender. Gordon is pretty far from. Yet, both like to push the tempo and would form one of the league's most intriguing young backcourts.

Now, instead of attempting a dual point guard lineup simply because they have no other pre-trade options, the Suns have a conventional, albeit freakishly athletic, backcourt of the future.

But wait. There's more! Jeremy Lin is coming to Phoenix, too, and there really are few spots better-suited to keeping his career arc on the up-and-up.

Sure, it may initially seem like a step back, but J-Lin is going to stagnate on a Rockets team that doesn't need what he's selling. He is still good enough to become an everyday starter someday, but for now, Lin will find the most developmental success by being a team's sixth man and leading their second unit to glory with the ball in his hands. 

Phoenix currently has no such thing, but they do want to push the pace and do need guys who can create their own shots while elevating their one-dimensional shooters. Lin would not be playing in Bledsoe or Gordon's shadow here because he can conceivably pair with one or the other throughout the game. He'd be logging the equivalent of starter's minutes while developing in a guard triumvirate that makes Phoenix kinda sorta pretty scary on a lot of nights.

Why New Orleans does it:

Letting Robin Lopez walk was a little perplexing, but bringing in Greg Stiemsma as his only replacement was downright horrifying if you're a New Orleans Pelicans fan.

Yes, Anthony Davis can play center and will do so whenever Ryan Anderson sees a lot of minutes. But why is he the only option? Stiemsma and often-hurt Jason Smith are both usable players, but not if overexposed.

Here comes Marcin Gortat, allowing Davis to slide back to power forward while protecting the somewhat fragile youngster from the wear-and-tear which already nagged him last year.

Gortat may have been exposed as a second-tier center and nothing more once Steve Nash pick-and-rolled out of Phoenix, but he's still an above-average rebounder and defender who has real footwork. You can actually run plays for him with an attacking point guard, and Jrue Holiday is perfect here, being able to score and facilitate in equal measure while looking for Gortat on the roll and Davis on the lob, or vice versa.

The beauty is Davis can play center now with Anderson, but so can Gortat. Davis is only out of position when the Pelicans want him to be, not out of need. Smith and Stiemsma can still have roles, but only in specialist's duty.

Better yet, Jason Thompson's arrival is another game changer. Long one of the NBA's forgotten PF/C combo guys, Thompson plays pick and pop, contests shots, rebounds and just generally does everything at an above average level. No one knows this because he's been stuck in Sacramento's hell for so long, but he gives the Pelicans all kinds of insurance on a front line that is too shallow without this trade.

Jimmer Fredette? He actually has a place on this team, competing with Anthony Morrow to be the shooting specialist they're still hoping for.

Yes, losing Eric Gordon hurts a little, but not on that contract. And did he ever really want to be in New Orleans? Without him, the Pelicans have a lot of options. Tyreke Evans could start at one of the wings. Or Morrow, Austin Rivers and Fredette get in the mix if Evans stays as the sixth man.

I'm confident the skeleton of this trade works for all involved, but do you think one side is overpaying or getting gift-wrapped too much? Leave me your thoughts in the Comments section below and Follow @bball_joel


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