How the trade affects the Houston Rockets 2020-21 season
The loss of Robert Covington won’t make the Rockets a better team in 2020-21. While not an All-Star caliber player, if he had played the entire season as the Rockets microball center he would have garnered All-Defensive team buzz.
The Rockets surrendered what became the 22nd pick in this draft to acquire Covington and are in return receiving the 16th pick to send him to the Blazers. The difference between the 16th and the 22nd pick is not huge but it’s a savvy move that will allow the Rockets to draft the highest they’ve drafted since they selected Jeremy Lamb with the 12th pick in 2012.
The Rockets will also be reunited with Trevor Ariza, who showed last year that he still has something left in the tank, but it remains to be seen how long he stays in town. Ariza is 35-years-old and in the last year of a contract that will pay him $12.8 million but with only $1.8 million guaranteed.
The Rockets could look to flip the veteran wing for more assets or release him to help their salary cap situation. Releasing Ariza would save the Rockets close to $10 million in salary but they could view the veteran as a positive influence for a team that is trending towards a youth movement or as a key contributor for a playoff push.
The Rockets should aim for a high-potential player with the 16th pick. The Rockets haven’t drafted a player in the first-round since 2015, haven’t taken a player in the top-10 since Rudy Gay at eighth in 2006, and haven’t seen a top-10 pick they drafted suit up since drafting Yao Ming with the first pick in 2002.
How the 2020-21 season plays out will depend on if the Rockets move James Harden and Russell Westbrook and what they get in return for them. Swapping Ariza for Covington is a downgrade but Ariza can provide quality minutes if still in town, more draft capital if he is moved, and salary relief if he’s released.
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