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Daily Rocket Science: Predicting the Trade Deadline

Jan 6, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Houston Rockets defeated the Houston Rockets 100-93. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 6, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Houston Rockets defeated the Houston Rockets 100-93. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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With a comfortable position at the third seed in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets probably won’t make a big splash at the trade deadline. With Morey in charge, though, there are no guarantees.

Behind James Harden‘s MVP-level play, Mike D’Antoni‘s Coach of the Year-caliber leadership, and the rest of the team’s willingness to buy in to Moreyball, the Houston Rockets are a legitimate title contender. Not one big-time pundit expected them to be respectable this year, but that hasn’t stopped The Beard and company.

The Rockets boast the league’s second best offense and are getting by with a middle-of-the-pack defense. This year, they’ve set the record for most mad threes in a game, and have put up as many as 77 points in a single half. Additionally, they’ve beaten both the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors on their home courts.

All that goes to say that Houston probably won’t make any earth-shattering trades in the next week or so. They’ve got a good thing going, and shouldn’t mess with it too much. For today’s Daily Rocket Science, we’ll look at what could realistically happen with the Rockets’ roster.

Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web

The fact that they’re playing well does not mean the Rockets don’t have holes they could fill. Kelly Scaletta ranked the top five needs that Houston has going into the All-Star break. Interestingly enough, the top two spots he describes could be filled by acquiring another big man.

The Rockets have a major problem with rim protection. They give up a 64.7 field-goal percentage within five feet of the basket, which puts them last in the NBA.

That’s in spite of the fact that opponents shoot just 55.5 percent when resident rim protector Clint Capela is the closest defender within six feet of the basket. But there is only so much a single, young center can do.

If Daryl Morey were to make a move in the next few days, it would almost assuredly include Corey Brewer and/or K.J. McDaniels. Dan Favale predicted the player(s) most likely to be traded from every team in the league, and he nailed the assessment of Houston.

Pot-sweeteners need to be attached to Houston’s best salary-matching packages. And K.J. McDaniels is its best additive, aside from future first-round picks. He’s a lanky mystery on the right side of 25 with tantalizing defensive tools and will make under $3.5 million in 2017-18.

Pair him with Brewer, plus a first-rounder, and the Rockets have the means to make a significant(ish) splash. Dangle him on his own, and he still holds more value than Brewer—just without the salary to take back a real asset in return.

More from Space City Scoop

Several potential moves exist, but the most likely scenario is that the Rockets sit back on the Trade Deadline for the first time in a long time, writes Zach Buckley.

When chemistry plays such a large role in team success, trades inherently involve risk. Houston has things figured out, and will likely adhere to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule.

General manager Daryl Morey has kept coy about his plans, however. He’s typically active this time of year, and there are areas he could try to improve—playmaking, shooting depth, anything related to defense.

But with Harden and D’Antoni having both voiced their hopes of no alterations, Morey must maneuver carefully. This club has battled chemistry issues before, and it can ill-afford them now with the margin for error so incredibly thin in the West.

The trade deadline is only days away now, so the answer to Red Nation’s questions will come soon enough. Despite criticisms this summer, Morey did an incredible job assembling his team. He has earned fans’ trust, and his decisions shouldn’t be second guessed.

Next: 3-on-3 Roundtable Discussion: Roster Shakeup

The Rockets’ last game before the trade deadline is on Wednesday against the Miami Heat. There is a chance that it will be the last game where the roster as we know it all suits up together.

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