Should the Rockets be Future-Minded at the Trade Deadline?
By Francisco Torres
The Houston Rockets have been involved in several trade rumors this season, but it may be better for the team to focus on the future instead of the now.
The NBA trade deadline is coming up on February 23rd, right at the end of the All-Star break. Every February, we hear rumors of different players potentially packing their bags and joining new teams.
This year is not the exception. Will Carmelo Anthony waive his trade clause and join the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Los Angeles Clippers? Should the Boston Celtics trade role players and a protected draft pick to gain an immediate upgrade? Might the Atlanta Hawks fight for this season or will they focus on the future?
This year, most teams are either definitely a contender or definitely not a contender. Riding that line, though, are the Houston Rockets. Because they’re right on the brink of contention, the “to trade or not to trade” decision is a little bit more complicated for them.
Historically, GM Daryl Morey loves to be active when the trade deadline approaches. Last season was the only time that he didn’t make any deadline moves since he took over as the GM in 2007, and he tried his best to work something with Donatas Motiejunas. This year could be a different story, though.
The general consensus around the league is that Houston is only one or two pieces away from truly competing for a title. However, those missing parts aren’t just end-of-the-bench role guys. They’re one or two significant players away from contention, and it’s unlikely that Morey would be able to fill that hole this season.
Obviously, there are a lot of big name players out there that could help make the Rockets the real deal. The price of those players, though, would be the team’s undoing if Morey were too eager.
The Rockets have Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson signed until 2020. Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker and of course, James Harden, are guaranteed until 2019 and Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Clint Capela are in Houston until at least 2018. The Rockets, if they so choose, could bring back nearly everybody for at least another year.
With so many players locked in to quality contracts, Morey will not want to part with the core of the team. But, the Rockets have no high first round picks to offer, so any trade of significance would have to include at least one or two of Houston’s main group. Hypothetically, who would Morey be willing to put on the block? The answer would probably be Brewer and Dekker, and maybe Harrell as well.
Remember, the standard that the Rockets would have to meet is that of the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors. To challenge those two teams, Houston would need to acquire someone like DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, or Andre Drummond. No offense to Sam, Corey, and Montrezl, but they wouldn’t be enough to bring those guys south. To get any player of that caliber, the Rockets would have to dismantle their roster, which wouldn’t solve the problem.
The big picture outlook says the Rockets should play out the rest of this season with what they have. In a pinch, they could look to the free agents that are out there, like Mario Chalmers, Jarrett Jack, Norris Cole, Andrea Bargnani, etc.
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It’d be near impossible to win it all now, but the Rockets are in great position for the near future. Heading into an offseason with a rising salary cap, Houston will have money to spend. Players like Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry, and Blake Griffin could all become free agents in the next two years.
With one of the best offensive players in the last decade leading the pitch, it’s realistic to think the Rockets can land a big name. If they play their cards right, they will be able to add a great talent while preserving most of their current roster.
Essentially, the present is asking Houston to make minor improvements to take on a super-team this year. Conversely, the future pleads with Morey to be patient. The Rockets could fight with what they have this year with the hope of creating a super-team of their own. With a prime superstar ready lead the team for the next five+ years, the decision should be easy.
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Should the Rockets push for a trade this season or would it be best to wait it out? Let us know what you think in the comments, or tweet at us at @SpaceCity_Scoop.