The Houston Rockets trade forward Donatas Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton to the Detroit Pistons in a move that few saw coming.
The Houston Rockets’ trade deadline deals were anticlimactic to say the least. Going into the All-Star break, rumors that the Rockets were trying to trade Dwight Howard began to surface from every corner of the internet.
Weeks before Howard rumors were heard, the thought around the league was that the Rockets would try to deal Ty Lawson and Terrence Jones before the trade deadline. It was almost a certainty that one of those two players, if not both of them, would finish the second half of the season in something other than a Rockets uniform.
That being said, it is now a day after the trade deadline, and Lawson, Jones and Howard all remain on the Rockets roster.
Rumors that the Rockets were shopping Howard followed a meeting Howard had with Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and James Harden after a disappointing loss to the Portland Trailblazers. While what was said during that meeting remains unclear, it is likely that Howard made known his plans to enter free agency during the offseason.
Howard revealing his free agency plans would serve as obvious motivation for the Rockets to to try to trade Howard while they were still able to get something out of him. Those same plans, however, are what made it difficult for the Rockets to find a deal for Howard.
ESPN sources say Milwaukee made offer for Dwight Howard but talks broke down in part because Howard wouldn't opt into final year of contract
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2016
Teams were not interested in trading for Howard if he intended on entering free agency during the offseason. Had Howard’s contract involved another guaranteed year, it is likely that Houston would’ve been able to find him a new home.
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Lawson and Jones were also difficult to find deals for as they both seem to have little value. Lawson is playing the worst basketball of his career, averaging 6 points and 3 assists, while Jones has yet to mold into a consistent player during his four-year tenure in the league.
Instead of trading any of the three players most people thought would go, the Rockets made a surprising move involving a three way trade with the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia Seventy Sixers, in which the Rockets received a first round pick– while making some salary space– in exchange for Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton.
The Rockets had their eyes on the future in giving up Motiejunas and Thornton for nothing immediate in return. After making the trade, General manager Daryl Morey told the media that the Rockets now have enough cap room to sign two max players during the offseason.
Daryl Morey on the coming offseason: "We feel like (Houston is) a top-5 destination and we'll have the ability to offer two max deals."
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) February 18, 2016
Unable to move Howard, the Rockets figured there was little they could do to fix the roster on the spot. Instead of making a trade that would slightly improve their roster, they elected to make moves that gives them flexibility for next season in which they will try to sign Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant.
The Rockets still have at least 27 games of basketball to play before they can start thinking about next season, however. Watch the Rockets tonight as they take on the Phoenix Suns in their first game since the All-Star Break.
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