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Houston Rockets: Ranking the contenders with the most assets

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 18: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles the ball against LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first quarter at Staples Center on February 18, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 18: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles the ball against LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first quarter at Staples Center on February 18, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
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Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers, Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers, Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets trade contenders #7 to #5

This group of three are all strong teams with enough assets to facilitate a trade but have varying degrees of motivation. These teams could and likely should upgrade but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they are relatively quiet around the trade deadline.

#7: Philadelphia 76ers: 19-10 – Draft Picks: Own 2021, 22, 23, 24

The Sixers have the best record in the Eastern Conference and own all of their first-round picks from 2021 to 2024. Based on record, the Sixers look like a contender but their underlying metrics raise some skepticism over whether they are actually an elite team. Their net-rating, the difference between their offensive and defensive rating, is only +2.9 and eighth in the NBA. This team could use some marginal upgrades and flipping a first-round pick for P.J. Tucker is a move that seems right up Daryl Morey’s alley. However, this Sixers team is winning and has two young franchise cornerstones that will be in town for years to come. The Sixers don’t need to win the championship this year and might look to use their remaining assets to secure a bigger fish.

#6: Utah Jazz: 24-5 – Draft Picks: Own 2025, 26, 27

The Utah Jazz have the best record in the league, the best net-rating, and both a top-five defense and offense. At this very moment, the Jazz are the best team in the NBA by a wide margin and don’t need to do a thing to be a serious threat to win the championship.

The Jazz still owe the Grizzlies one more first-round pick for the Mike Conley trade and could decide to wait it out until that conveys until they decide to use their assets to bolster their roster again. P.J. Tucker might interest them as they’ll look to upgrade their depth in anticipation of a long playoff run.

#5: Portland Trail Blazers: 18-10 – Draft Picks: 2021 pick to Houston

The final team in this group of teams is likely the worst of the three and owns all but one of their upcoming picks. Fortunately for the Rockets, the pick that the Trail Blazers owe is heading to them, which will make a deal much easier.

The Trail Blazers have done an incredible job weathering injuries to C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic but their net-rating of +0.7 looks like that of a .500 team and not an 18-10 one. This team has a true superstar in Damian Lillard, an All-Star in McCollum, and a strong roster around them but their defense is the second-worst in the league.

This team is stuck with this roster for this season and next but they shouldn’t waste another year of Lillard’s prime. If P.J. Tucker or Oladipo are available; the Trail Blazers need to push their chips in and make a true championship-caliber roster, because they have the assets to do it.

Next: Fully stocked assets contenders: Teams #4 to #1

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