Trade number 2
If the Rockets want Bam Adebayo then a third team is going to have to come in to make the salary situation work. Adebayo recently signed a rookie-scale extension, which makes moving his contract incredibly difficult.
The outgoing salary for the Heat is Adebayo’s $5.1 million salary this season, but the incoming salary going to Houston is $37.7 million. This NBA quirk means the Heat will have to offload Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynyk to a team not named the Houston Rockets in order to absorb Harden’s incoming $41.2 million salary.
Enter the Knicks, who have the cap space to absorb these two contracts and have shown a willingness to take on bad contracts to get a little something in return. The Knicks might ask for a pick in return for their salary absorption, which both parties would happily concede to see this deal through.
The Rockets, in return for Harden, will receive Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and Kendrick Nunn. Adebayo is one of the league’s most exciting young players and has the potential to be a perennial All-NBA player.
Last season he averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists a game while shooting 55.7-percent from the field. His combination of defending, passing, and scoring is rare from a frontcourt player and has him poised to challenge Nikola Jokic as the league’s best passing big man.
In each of his three NBA seasons, he has improved his points, rebounds, and assists per game and at only 23-years-old Adebayo’s best basketball is ahead of him. While his contract makes him a nightmare to trade, it is a godsend for the Rockets.
Adebayo is under contract for seven more seasons which cover his prime years and will see him in Houston through the 2025 season. Kendrick Nunn has already been discussed, but Duncan Robinson is one of the best contracts in all of basketball.
Under contract for only one more year at $1.6 million Robinson is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. Last season, on 8.3 3-point attempts he shot 44.6-percent from distance. In the history of the NBA, only Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been able to blend that type of volume with efficiency over the course of a season.
The Rockets might not be better after this deal but they’ll be set up to contend for the playoffs for the next five seasons and will have the ability to transition to a new identity. While Adebayo’s inclusion in a deal would certainly entice the Rockets, the Heat might feel he is too important to their system and could be primed to offer the Rockets a player very similar to James Harden.
Next: Trade number 1