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10 Players the Houston Rockets can acquire with Nene’s contract

By Anthony Duckett
Houston Rockets Nene Hilario (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Nene Hilario (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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With Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey getting creative on a new contract with Nene to use as a “human trade exception,” there are several players the Rockets could look into sending Nene away for.

The Houston Rockets have agreed to a new contract with Nene to essentially use him as a trade piece. Which was brilliant considering the fact that they didn’t have any other assets to move to be able to take on additional salary. The deal comes with several caveats because for starters, Nene can’t be moved until January 15th of 2020. But not only that, the Rockets may very well go over the luxury tax depending on who they bring in.

The reality of the situation is any team acquiring Nene in a trade will likely cut him, as they are only trading for him because they want an additional asset, such as a first round draft pick. This is also interesting because the Rockets are certainly going to be drafting at the bottom of each round, as they are a true contender this year. Nonetheless, the Rockets can send $10 million in outgoing salary, meaning they could acquire a player making up to $12.6 million. Depending on who the target player is, the Rockets may be able to even send Nene straight up from a salary standpoint, and not have to include any other players in a trade.

Here is a list of 10 players the Rockets could target/add with the re-worked contract of Nene. Let’s get started!

Next: Familiar Face?

Trevor Ariza #1 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Trevor Ariza #1 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Trevor Ariza

Trevor Ariza is a familiar face for Rockets fans, as he played for the Rockets on two different engagements, first in 2009 and again in 2014. The latter stint with the team is what most Rockets fans will remember, as Ariza played four years and proved to be a defensive specialist for the team. Rockets fans’ last memory of Ariza is certainly not a positive one, as he shot 0-for-9 from deep in the Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference Finals.

In spite of that, Ariza averaged 35.8 percent from deep over the course of the four years he played in Houston while averaging 12.2 points per game during the same timespan. Ariza would benefit greatly from playing alongside Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who are both elite passers. Ariza would also fit a need the Rockets have, as they lack depth at the forward spot, which is arguably the team’s biggest weakness. Not only that, the Rockets could trade Nene straight up for Ariza from a salary standpoint.

Last season, Ariza finished off the year with the Washington Wizards, where he averaged 14.1 points per game, which was the most he’s averaged in four years. Ariza reached an agreement with the Sacramento Kings on a two year contract worth $25 million.

For Ariza, a return to Houston comes down to whether or not the Sacramento Kings are willing to comply with the Rockets, which will largely be based off of how the Kings start the season. I’d be surprised to see them pull the trigger on this trade, as they’ve got a solid young core centered around De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, which likely makes them feel they are a playoff team this season. But they also would not want to help the Rockets get better, so it’d be quite surprising if this gets done.

Next: T-Ross?

Terrence Ross #31 of the Orlando Magic Kenneth Faried #35 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Terrence Ross #31 of the Orlando Magic Kenneth Faried #35 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Terrence Ross

Terrence Ross would be an interesting piece, as he is a 6-foot-6 forward who is coming off a career year. As I’ve mentioned, the Rockets need depth at the forward spot. Ross averaged a career high 15.1 points per game while shooting 38.3 percent from deep on 7 attempts per game from downtown. Ross finished off the year as Orlando’s third leading scorer.

Ross would actually fit in well with the Rockets due to his 3-point shooting abilities, as he finished within the top 10 in the league in 3-pointers made last season. Ross would not provide much else outside of scoring however, as he’s not known for his defense.

This is a trade I’d suppose Orlando would be interested in, as they aren’t expected to be a legitimate contender and will likely finish at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race like last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up with the 8th seed in the East, which isn’t exactly saying much. Due to this, it wouldn’t exactly be a shocker to me if Orlando jumps at the opportunity to land a first round pick from the Rockets as it’s not like Ross will make them significantly better. On top of that, the Magic won’t have the concern of making an inner-conference team better, as the Rockets play in the Western Conference.

If the Rockets are able to get this done with Nene and a first round pick, I would be all for it.

Next: Aminu

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Al-Farouq Aminu

Despite being only 28, Al-Farouq Aminu is entering his 10th season in the league. Last year, Aminu proved to be a pivotal contributor for the Portland Trail Blazers, as he averaged 9.4 points per game while shooting 34.3 percent from three in addition to 86.7 percent from the free throw line. In addition, Aminu averaged 7.5 rebounds per game, which was the second best of his career. Aminu’s points per game was his second best of his career and his free throw shooting was a career best. Last season, Aminu averaged 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Aminu also fits a position of need for the Rockets, as he’s a 3-and-D forward. The Rockets could use Aminu’s defensive rebounding and his defense, which is arguably his biggest strength. Although his 34.3 3-point percentage isn’t necessarily automatic, his defense and defensive rebounding are skills/traits the Rockets really could benefit from.

Orlando is loaded at the forward spot in the rotation as they have Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, who Aminu will certainly be ceding minutes to. As I mentioned earlier, the Orlando Magic SHOULD be inclined to make this move with the Rockets, as they could use the draft pick since they aren’t expected to be legitimate contenders in the East. Even if they do make the playoffs again, it would be a shock if they make it past the first round.

From a salary standpoint, Nene could be traded straight up for Aminu as well.

Next: Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics Houston Rockets (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics Houston Rockets (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart is a tenacious defender, which is evidenced by his First-Team All Defensive selection last season. Smart averaged a career high 1.8 steals per game last season as well. The Rockets could use another dog on the defensive end of the floor in addition to P.J. Tucker. Smart is tough, physical and gritty and has given the Rockets problems in the past, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

Smart also shot 36.4 percent from deep last season, which was by far his best season from downtown, as he’s a career 31 percent 3-point shooter. Smart averaged 8.9 points and 4 assists per game last season and would be a nice addition to the team. He could be inserted in a small ball line-up and would certainly be able to play on a defensive line-up. He would give the Rockets flexibility, as his presence would allow the team to move Eric Gordon back to the Sixth Man role he thrives in, or he could give Russell Westbrook and James Harden a rest, which the Rockets have said they want to do.

The Rockets are loaded at guard and wouldn’t necessarily need to add an additional guard, but they could use a gritty player like Smart, who is under contract through 2022. This would allow Smart to play with the Rockets core of Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, as they will all still be under contract at that point.

I would be surprised to see Boston deal Smart, as he will be an integral part of their core, especially with the loss of Kyrie Irving. However, if the Rockets are able to reach a deal with Boston, Smart could be traded straight up for Nene.

Next: Aussie Lefty

Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz shoots the ball against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz shoots the ball against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)

Joe Ingles

Joe Ingles is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, as the Australian forward is a career 40.8 percent 3-point shooter. In addition, Ingles is coming off a year in which he averaged a career best 12.1 points per game and finished with the 15th most 3-pointers made in the league. Ingles is also a very capable passer and facilitator, as he averaged a career-high 5.7 assists per game last season, which was second on the Jazz. Ingles would provide the Rockets with an interesting element, as they could utilize his passing to set up other 3-point shooters on the team, or they could use James Harden and Russell Westbrook to set him up for looks behind the line.

Ingles also possesses under-rated defensive skills, which get largely overlooked due to his significant contributions on the offensive end of the floor. Ingles actually received two votes for the All-Defensive team last season.

The problem with this trade, however, is the Utah Jazz. They’ve been defeated by the Rockets in the playoffs in consecutive years and surely won’t want to help the Rockets get better. In addition, the Jazz are in win-now mode and are going to be significantly better this season. On top of that, the Jazz don’t have as much of a need for an additional draft pick, which is what the Rockets would likely be sending them, as they are a legitimate contender.

The Rockets would be lethal with Ingles and actually could trade Nene’s contract straight up for Ingles if the Jazz would agree to it, but unfortunately this is likely more of a pipe dream than a reality.

Next: J-Rich

Josh Richardson #0 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Josh Richardson #0 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Josh Richardson

At just 26 years old and entering his fifth season, J-Rich is a young asset and a quality forward. Richardson is coming off a career year in which he averaged 16.6 points per game, making him the leading scorer for the Miami Heat. In addition, he shot 35.7 percent from deep while also averaging 4.1 assists per game. At 6-foot-6. Richardson would also fill a gap at the forward spot for the Rockets.

The Sixers acquired Richardson in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat this off-season. In fact, you could argue Philadelphia doesn’t necessarily need Richardson, as they’re starting Tobias Harris and Al Horford at both forward spots. Richardson wasn’t the most efficient of scorers last season, shooting just 41.2 percent from the field, which was one of the few areas he regressed last season. His scoring, assists, rebounds, and free throw shooting were all career highs.

Aside from the offense Richardson’s game brings, he’s also a good defender. In fact, Richardson even received 3 votes for the All-Defensive team, which are actually more than Rockets prime target Andre Iguodala had.

Depending on how much the Sixers play Richardson, they could very well be willing to move him for a draft pick. They’ll have roughly three months before Nene is available to be traded to determine if he’s a good fit with their team, but the Rockets could certainly use his services. The Rockets would be able to trade Nene for Richardson straight up as well.

Next: Iggy

Houston Rockets Andre Iguodala (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Andre Iguodala (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala is certainly the name that immediately came to mind upon hearing the terms of Nene’s contract, and there are many reasons the Rockets should want Iggy. Despite being in his 15th season, Iguodala still received a vote for the All-Defensive team, which shows he can still provide elite defense despite being on the back end of his career.

In addition, he averaged 9.8 points per game in the playoffs, which was the fifth most on the “superteam” Golden State Warriors. He also shot 35 percent from deep in the post-season, which was the fourth highest amongst players appearing in 8 or more games for the Dubs. Iguodala also averaged 19.1 points per 36 minutes in the post-season. In the Western Conference Semifinals against the Rockets, Iggy averaged 13.5 points per game on 42 percent shooting from deep.

The downside to acquiring Iggy in a trade involving Nene is the fact that Nene’s deal alone won’t be enough outgoing salary to acquire Iguodala. This means the Rockets would likely have to include up-and-comer Danuel House, who has far more upside than Iggy. On top of that, Iguodala is only under contract for one more year, whereas the Rockets now have House under contract through 2022. But even with Nene and House, the Rockets still wouldn’t have enough outgoing salary for Iggy.

On top of that, Iguodala will likely not be on the Grizzlies roster as of January 15th, which is the soonest the Rockets would be able to trade Nene so it seems like a longshot for Iguodala to come to Houston via trade.

Next: RoCo

Robert Covington #33 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes to the basket against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Robert Covington #33 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes to the basket against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Robert Covington

Robert Covington is also a familiar face for the Houston Rockets, as he played his rookie season in Houston during the 2014 season. Covington is the classic 3-and-D player, as he received five total votes for the All-Defensive team last season and actually made the All-Defensive First Team in 2018. Covington had a career high 37.8 percent from deep last season, despite missing 47 games due to injury. In addition, he averaged 14.5 points per game after being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last year, which is also the most he’s ever averaged per game.

The Rockets could definitely use Covington’s 3-point shooting and he would be great on defense paired next to P.J. Tucker. Nene could be traded straight up for Covington, as his outgoing salary would match. This could be the most likely deal of any on this list, as the Minnesota Timberwolves are clearly rebuilding and aren’t close to being a contender in any way. For this reason, I could see the Timberwolves taking the call from the Rockets.

The Wolves won’t be contending with Covington’s services anyways and after next year he’ll be 29 years old. I would think Minnesota would be intrigued by the idea of having a rookie with significantly more upside than “RoCo” especially considering their current status as a non-contender in the Western Conference.

Next: Crowder

Jae Crowder #99 of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Jae Crowder #99 of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder is quite familiar with the Houston Rockets, as his Utah Jazz have faced off against the Rockets in each of the last two postseasons. In last year’s playoff series against the Rockets, Crowder averaged 11.4 points on 32 percent shooting from deep. During the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals, Crowder averaged 10.8 points per game on 37.8 percent shooting from deep while grabbing 6.6 rebounds per night.

Last season, Crowder averaged 11.9 points per game on 33.1 percent shooting from deep. Crowder is less than automatic from behind the arc, but he’s also a physical defender with great size. Crowder is listed at 6 feet 6 inches tall and 235 pounds, which is great size for a Rockets team in need of forward depth.

If they can get Crowder back to shooting around 39.8 percent from downtown, as he did in 2017 with the Boston Celtics, Crowder could be a significant addition. He’s also never played alongside two elite passers such as James Harden and Russell Westbrook over the course of an entire season, which would help him significantly. Of course, Crowder’s Utah Jazz will have no incentive to send him to the Rockets, as they’ve been the Achilles heel for the Jazz. On top of that, the Jazz have legitimate title aspirations with the additions of Mike Conley and sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic. If the Rockets are able to get the Jazz to do this trade, they could swap Nene straight up for Crowder from a salary standpoint.

Next: Bogdanovich

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Bogdan Bogdanovich

Bogdan Bogdanovich would be a great add for the Rockets, as he’s only 27 years old and is entering his third year with the Sacramento Kings. Bogdanovich is coming off a season in which he averaged a career high 14.1 points per game on 36 percent shooting from deep. His 3-point shooting took a dip from his rookie year in which he shot 39.2 percent from distance.

Bogdanovich also averaged 3.8 assists per game, which is intriguing considering his height at 6-foot-6. Sacramento could possibly be interested in moving him considering the fact that they added Trevor Ariza and re-signed Harrison Barnes, who both play the same forward position as Bogdanovich.

Bogdanovich also showed his clutch gene last season, as he sent the Los angeles Lakers home on a step back  3-point dagger, provided below as courtesy of the Sacramento Kings’ Youtube channel.

If you watch closely, Bogdanovich nailed the game-winner over the Rockets’ newly acquired Tyson Chandler. Bogdanovich was also recently playing in the World Cup for his home country of Serbia, and averaged 22.9 points per game. Bogdanovich was even named to the FIBA World Cup All-Star team as well.

Next. Ranking the top 5 threats to the Houston Rockets in the West

If the Houston Rockets are able to get the Kings to move Bogdanovich, Nene could be traded straight up for him.

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