James Johnson: Forward → Center
James Johnson would thrive as a small-ball center. He may only be 6-7, but he posted a block percentage this past season of 4.6 percent. If he had played enough to qualify, that would have seen him finish 12th in the league, 0.2 percent behind Rudy Gobert and ahead of Bam Adebayo and Joel Embiid.
Johnson is a capable finisher around the rim, and while not lights out from 3-point range, his career 34.2 percent from the corners means he at least has to be covered. Johnson wouldn’t come in and displace any of the Rockets’ current starters unless his outside shooting takes a leap, but having frontcourt depth when you’re always giving up the size advantage is crucial. Last season, the Rockets would have been in serious trouble if one of Robert Covington or P.J. Tucker had been injured.
Johnson has a player option for $16 million next season, which is perfect for the Rockets. Pressed up against the salary cap, the Rockets can’t add salary, but Eric Gordon is owed $16 million as well. The Rockets could swap Gordon for Johnson and acquire his expiring contract while offloading the four years and $75 million left on Gordon’s deal.
The Timberwolves may bite on a Gordon bounceback, and the move will give the Rockets salary cap relief in the future and a much more movable contract should they want to use Johnson to upgrade the roster elsewhere.
Next: Trade Target No. 2