NBA Trade Rumors: 5 Reasons Houston Rockets Must Make Moves By Trade Deadline
Every year for the last three years, the Rockets have made a move near the trade deadline of varying importance.
Three years ago, they moved Steve Francis along with a second rounder for the ubiquitous conditional second rounder in a deal that was meant simply to clean up the books. Two years ago, they moved starting point guard Rafer Alston for young prospect Kyle Lowry to infuse a running style to a team in transition. Last year, in a surprising turn of events, Daryl Morey managed to pry Kevin Martin away from Sacramento, along with Jordan Hill and draft considerations from the Knicks, to help the Rockets rebuild in the post-McGrady era.
This year, with the team in as bad shape as it has been since Morey took over, the Rockets front office has a tall task in front of them to construct a winning team. The Rockets are struggling, fan support is waning and the future looks as hazy as ever.
Morey has a question in front of him that has faced general managers for decades—to make a deal or not. Here are five reasons why the prudent course of action is to go for it and make a trade.
5. Relative Value of Assets
Right now, the Rockets are sitting on what is generally considered to be one of the most valuable caches of assets in the entire league. With huge expiring contracts in Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries and Yao Ming, the Rockets can offer many teams outrageous financial relief in any transaction.
However, to the Rockets, these contracts are significantly less valuable for a number of reasons. While many teams are pressed for cash as they struggle to make ends meet in these bad economic times, the Rockets are one team that has few financial issues, as they are supported by strong Chinese viewership, filled luxury boxes and club-level seating.
For these reasons, the Rockets have less incentive to be cutting costs as the new collective bargaining agreement approaches. As any market man will tell you, if someone else values your assets at a price higher than the value you place on them, it makes sense to sell them.
With teams like the Bobcats potentially willing to give up significant players in order to save money, the Rockets must operate from their position of power as the league's third-most profitable team (according to Forbes' "The Business of Basketball") and take advantage of these struggling teams.
It sounds predatory and wrong, but basketball is a business and the Rockets must be mindful of their position.
4. Ticking Clock on Trade Exceptions
While expiring contracts have been the league's currency since the inception of the latest collective bargaining agreement, over the last year another form of currency has become more and more valuable—the trade exception.
While expiring contracts allow teams to relinquish all financial burden on a contract after the end of the season, a trade exception is even more valuable because it allows teams to give up a player and not have to deal with his contract at all.
However, before this summer, not too many exceptions were present in the league with teams willing to use them. After so many teams signed-and-traded their players out of town, they found themselves with trade exceptions and rebuilt their teams, the Jazz being the most notable example.
After trading Trevor Ariza to the Hornets, the Rockets received a $6.33 million trade exception, an incredibly valuable piece in today's trade market. If the Rockets are willing to be saddled with a bad contract to make a deal work, it could be the difference between acquiring a superstar or elite young talent and not. However, because of the expiration date of next July, the Rockets must act before the beginning of next season.
With squandering their assets not exactly the Rockets style, expect for them to make at least a minor move with the trade exception. With so many teams looking to shave money, it could be major.
3. Relieving Apathy
It is not the job of the front office to cater to every wish of the fanbase—in fact it is often the least successful executives that attempt to make a splashy move to boost the team's popularity—but the Rockets desperately need to make a move to relieve apathy for all parties involved with the team, players included.
Often midseason trades disrupt team chemistry and only serve to break down a team that has been building together for a full year. However, in the Rockets' case, a breakdown may be necessary.
In stark contrast to the gritty, hustling teams the Rockets enjoyed in the earlier parts of the millennium, this Rockets team appears to be stuck in the mud, unable to motivate itself when things go poorly. Often, teams will make runs to go ahead in the second half and the Rockets will just look on in seeming helplessness. Whether Rick Adelman can take any of the blame for this lack of energy in losses or not, it is clear that the team desperately needs some new energy.
The same can be said for the fanbase. As previously mentioned, the front office should not be catering itself to the fans, but a trade could be crucial if the Rockets want to establish a strong home-court advantage in Houston. While filling the luxury boxes and courtside seats will make money, filling the other seats will win games. However, as the fanbase is disenfranchised with the team's current direction, the Toyota Center is quiet, empty and quite depressing.
A trade could change that, even if it is one that starts a rebuilding process.
2. Talent Available
In the past few years, players like Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and others have all been mentioned in trade scenarios near almost every trade deadline. However, while some trades get made, it is extremely rare for many high quality players to be moved midseason.
This year may prove to be an exception. With players like Carmelo Anthony, Gerald Wallace and Nene rumored to be potentially on the move, this year is the right year to make a trade if there ever were one.
While Kevin Martin has been a worthwhile addition who has added tremendous scoring on the perimeter, adding guys like Nene or Carmelo Anthony—players that would not be available if it were not for unique circumstances this year—could potentially be a huge win for the Rockets.
This is not to say that these players will come for an inexpensive price, but the uncertainty in Denver, the CBA issues and the economic strife brings the price out of the stratosphere into a region where the Rockets could potentially pounce, something they could not say a year ago.
1. The Danger of Mediocrity
Mediocrity in the NBA is perhaps the most difficult cycle to escape in all of sports. In basketball, teams without a dominant player struggle to break through the ceiling of a starless team.
With the best of the best in the draft often coming at the top of the first round, consistently mediocre teams struggle to replenish their talent reserves with young players. However, if they can make the playoffs each year, they can make enough revenue so that it makes sense to keep their core together.
Consider the Atlanta Hawks. With Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford, they have enough talent to be a consistent playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but they will likely never take down the Bulls, Heat, Magic or Celtics in a playoff series. However, because of the extreme financial incentive to make the playoffs, they have little reason to break up the core and go for a championship by making an extreme move.
The Rockets are in a similar position, lacking the talent to go far, but also lacking the horrible record that generally triggers an all-out rebuilding process. If they do not make a move, they will likely get a solid top-15 draft pick, find a decent role player at that spot, sign a reasonable free agent and embark on a decade of average play once again.
However, if they make an aggressive move, they could end up in a far better situation. While there is risk involved, none of it seems to compare to the fate of enduring more years of a club unable to move past the first or second round of the playoffs.