The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a six-game losing streak that began as soon as Christian Wood went down with an injury. Since then, the grit and grind Rockets have come to a screeching halt and the team’s missing pieces have become alarmingly visible.
Anytime a team has 16 games scheduled within 28 days, some ups and downs can be expected. However, that doesn’t mean that the Rockets are just going through the normal ebbs and flows of a season.
With John Wall and Victor Oladipo resting on alternate games of back-to-backs, the Rockets are already straining their depth. For all the players that play on the bench, the lack of a true pick and roll player and a secondary ball-handler are sinking the team’s chances of competing.
Combine that with the fatigue that is setting in amongst the players and the team going freezing cold from beyond the arc (much like the weather in Houston), and there are alarm bells going off all around. The Rockets are also without Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, out with their injuries, and Eric Gordon‘s revenge tour is not going to be enough to keep them afloat in the Western Conference without reinforcements.
It is likely that Rafael Stone, the Rockets General Manager, still wants to evaluate the team when healthy before making any big trades prior to the March 25th trade deadline but that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything right now. Here are three former Rockets that the team should sign to fill their gaps while they go through this grueling stretch of schedule without two of their top players.
Next: #3: Return of the Manimal
Former Houston Rocket #3: Kenneth Faried
In the 2018-19 season, the Rockets picked up Kenneth Faried (AKA the Manimal) after he was waived by the Brooklyn Nets. Faried served as a backup center to Clint Capela and provided all-around energy, rebounding, and scoring with the second unit.
As things often went in the Mike D’Antoni era, the Manimal found himself on the outside of D’Antoni’s short rotation in the playoffs and has not played in the NBA since April of 2019. While it is peculiar that he hasn’t found a team since playing 7 games in China at the end of 2019, his skillset is much needed for the Rockets.
"Also, a former Net who is working out in Los Angeles toward a hopeful NBA return: Kenneth Faried." https://t.co/3071te6Iwm
— Disney Gary Clark (@Itamar1710) February 15, 2021
Since the injury to Christian Wood, the Rockets have relied on Demarcus Cousins at center and have played small ball when he rests. At this point in his career, Cousins doesn’t have the same abilities he once did, and having him play as a starting center for 25-30 minutes a game has hurt the team.
At 31 years of age, Faried would bring a veteran presence to a team that needs depth in the frontcourt. The Rockets would be getting a high-energy player that fills the gaps nicely alongside Cousins as Wood recovers and he would continue to be a key player off the bench for the Rockets both on the boards and offensively, something the Rockets sorely need as they are currently 26th in offensive rating.
Next: #2: Lemon Pepper Lou
Houston Rockets shooting guard Lou Williams (12) Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Former Houston Rocket #2: Lou Williams
Behind John Wall, the Rockets don’t have a true point guard. They have attempted to use Eric Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Danuel House, and Sterling Brown and while they all have their own skills and value to the team, they are not primary ball handlers.
Even Eric Gordon functions best when he is working next to another point guard. When Wall or Oladipo is resting, the second unit has no one to guide them.
Coach Silas has tried to use Oladipo as a ball-handler but he has not been comfortable in that role and does not have the vision and distribution abilities to excel at that role. Enter Lou Williams.
Williams was a key role player on the Rockets prior to the Chris Paul trade back in 2017. Similar to Faried, Williams was acquired midseason and made an impact for that iteration of the Rockets.
With the Clippers aiming to take down the Lakers this year, they have been rumored to try to add another star player. Without any real draft assets, it will be difficult for them to do and it is possible that they are open to trading away Williams for draft assets in an attempt to facilitate a larger trade.
Williams has never been lacking in confidence and he has the skills to create for himself and for others. With his experience as a true backup point guard in the league for the majority of his career, Williams would be able to return to his previous role on the Rockets and help bring some stability to the backcourt.
While Williams would likely cost some draft assets, the Rockets would not have to trade away any players for him since they have multiple trade exceptions and his salary would easily be covered by the $10.6 million trade exception the Rockets received in the James Harden trade.
Next: #1: Bringing back Linsanity
Former Houston Rocket #1: Jeremy Lin
The Rockets have been a large part of the expansion of Chinese basketball ever since they drafted Yao Ming in 2002. Arguably their biggest Asian signing since Yao was Jeremy Lin in 2012. Unfortunately, Lin was never able to recapture his “Linsanity” level of play that he showed with the New York Knicks and was traded away after three seasons.
Lin’s tenure with the Rockets was with a completely different roster and he was a different player. He has been on multiple teams since then and has excelled at the veteran backup point guard role.
After winning a championship with the Raptors, Lin went to play in China for a year and is attempting a comeback to the NBA in the G-League. Through four games for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Lin is averaging 17.8 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.5 steals on 30.5 minutes per game.
Lin has shown the ability to lead a team’s second unit and would be an ideal fit for the Rockets. While it’s unlikely he will recapture the magic of “Linsanity,” he would help the second unit run offensively and defensively.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 14, 2021
With the Rockets’ numerous injuries and condensed schedule, they need all of these players’ skillsets and ability to help them compete this season. With the losing skid increasing, it is becoming increasingly necessary to make moves now before things devolve too much.
With John Wall coming out and talking about still wanting to make a playoff push, the Rockets will have to make moves if that is their goal. Rafael Stone has made plenty of great moves but there are still holes on the team. These are some cost-effective moves he can make to help this team get out of their funk and contend again.