Countdown to NBA trade deadline, February 18th: What would it take to trade one of the rookies?
Surely, somewhere in downtown Houston, mastermind Daryl Morey is at a desk in a dimly lit office laboring over what trades to make. With the season going far from how he hoped, we can assume he’ll make some sort of wild move that will shake things up and get the Houston Rockets‘ train back on the tracks.
It’s near impossible to know what he’s thinking (Did anybody actually see the Josh Smith trade coming?), but it’s fun to try and play general manager and come up with some trade potentials that could right the ship. My fellow staff writer at Space City Scoop, Anthony Nguyen, dove into what trading the superstars would look like, however unlikely that may be. For this trade special, I’ll be taking a look at a trade possibility that would be a little more feasible.
What assets could the Rockets get if Morey were willing to part with new guy Montrezl Harrell?
Before I go into who the Rockets could get for Harrell, lets discuss how the big man’s been playing so far. He’s split time between the Rockets and their D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In his time spent in the big leagues, he’s showcased respectable per-36 minute averages of 12.2 points per game (ppg) and 5.9 rebounds per game (rpg) while shooting better than 65% from the field. He has been uber productive in the D-League, boasting a stat line of 24.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg, as well as totaling nearly 4 assists per game (apg).
Nov 13, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Houston Rockets forward Montrezl Harrell (35) dunks the ball in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
As far as intangibles are concerned, Harrell been an active defender, igniting a spark off the bench whenever he enters the game. He does the little things well and with his long, athletic build, he has the makings of a future starting-quality big man.
Now, what do the Rockets need?
One of Houston’s biggest needs is a point guard who can play alongside James Harden well, contributing on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. We all thought Ty Lawson might fill that hole, but it’s been painfully obvious that his play this season leaves much to be desired.
One new point guard that has caught my attention this season is Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets. He went 7th in the 2015 draft and has played well so far, averaging 11.1 ppg, 5.7 apg, and 3.3 rpg in about 30 minutes per outing. His per-36 minute averages are fairly comparable to Harrell’s: 13.5 ppg and 7 apg.
Morey would be wise to pursue Mudiay, swapping fairly equal talents but gaining talent where it’s more sorely missed.
The Nuggets would benefit from the trade as well. Denver has just two listed power forwards (PF) on their roster. Kenneth Faried plays the majority of the position’s minutes and is a solid player who would start for the majority of teams in the league. However, the next PF on the list is Darrell Arthur, who has been in the league for six years and has never averaged more than 9 ppg or 5 rpg. Denver has the ability to run small-ball, but does not have a good second option to Faried if they want to put in a big rebounding group. The up-and-coming Montrezl Harrell could be a perfect fit due to his play style and strengths, considering the fact that he’s been compared to Faried on many occasions and would be benefitted by learning from the Manimal.
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Despite all that, the Nuggets understandably might not be too willing to trade their top ten draft pick for Houston’s lowly second rounder in Harrell; plus, the swapping of just the two aforementioned players would put the the Rockets over the luxury tax threshold. To sweeten the deal a little bit and make the trade legal, Morey could throw in this season’s other rookie, Sam Dekker.
The Wisconsin product has yet to log more than 10 total NBA minutes due to back surgery, but upon his return after the All-Star break, he could come in to a productive role on any team. Last season at the University of Wisconsin, he averaged nearly 14 ppg and 6 rpg, and was taken 18th overall in the 2015 draft. He would make a great stretch four for a small-ball lineup or a rebounding small forward in a more traditional lineup.
The trade checks out on the ESPN Trade Machine, and even gives the edge to the Nuggets as the winners of the transaction. I’d be plenty willing to go for it despite ESPN’s analytics due to the intangibles involved, like Houston’s plethora of power forwards and severe need for a point guard who can play with the Beard while understanding his role.
Speaking of the plethora of power forwards on Houston’s roster, let’s go ahead and see how many there really are. Josh Smith, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Clint Capela, and Montrezl Harrell are all traditional PFs. Additionally, Sam Dekker and Trevor Ariza have also played minutes at the four spot. When a roster only has room for fifteen players, it is complete nonsense to have six players at one position taking up valuable room that could be used on positions where a need exists.
Like I said before, Morey is about as unpredictable as the Rockets are this season, so there’s no telling what moves he’ll make before the deadline in a couple of weeks. With point guard production being of so much importance, however, I’d advise the GM get on the phone with Denver in his dimly lit office as soon as possible to see if this proposed trade could go down. It would be a move that could help both teams get to where they want to be; even if the trade would end up backfiring, it’s not like either team involved has all that much to lose this season.
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