The Houston Rockets have come out on the other end of the 2021 NBA trade deadline and their only notable moves were their trades of Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker. The pair being moved came as no surprise, as both are on expiring contracts and were in trade rumors for the duration of the season, but the returns they secured for the Rockets were.
Houston Rockets: What the deadline deals have brought in
When the season began, it was thought that each could secure at least a first-round pick in a trade, but due to poor performances, the two ended up being sold for pennies on the dollar. Tucker, in essence, landed the Rockets a pick swap for 2021, D.J. Wilson, and D.J. Augustin’s contract, while Oladipo brought back Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 pick swap.
Wilson and Olynyk are both on expiring deals, Bradley has a team option for 2022, and D.J. Augustin has two more years for a total of $14.3 million left on his deal, although the final year is not fully guaranteed. The pick swap with the Milwaukee Bucks will allow the Rockets to swap their second-round pick for the Bucks’ first-round pick, which will likely see them move up around eight spots in the draft.
The 2022 pick swap with the Miami Heat, through the Oladipo trade, has some value because the Rockets also have the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick which means they can swap that pick for Miami’s. In the end, the Rockets landed very little from their two post-James Harden trade trades.
Houston Rockets: The James Harden trade
The Rockets trade of James Harden has left Rockets fans wanting as there were rumors they could have landed Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers and they both Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen from the Brooklyn Nets. Instead, the Rockets opted for four first-round picks, four first-round pick swaps, all unprotected, and Victor Oladipo and Rodions Kurucs.
To make matters worse, the two players that came back in the Harden deal have already been traded away, Kurucs as part of the P.J. Tucker trade and Oladipo to Miami. One of the first-round picks in the Harden trade came from the Cavaliers via the Milwaukee Bucks and was changed from a 2022 first-round pick to a 2023 first-round pick as part of the Tucker trade.
Houston Rockets: The total trade package
In the end, what have these trades amounted to for the Rockets? Through James Harden, the Rockets netted four first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps, with P.J. Tucker they landed a 2021 pick swap, D.J. Wilson, and D.J. Augustin, and in their deal of Oladipo, they secured Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 pick swap.
Add it all up and the Rockets brought in four first-round picks, six pick swaps, two expiring contracts in Wilson and Olynyk, two veterans on bad contracts in Augustin and Bradley, and cut their 2021-22 salary commitments by at least $30 million.
Unfortunately, the Rockets wheeling and dealing this season hasn’t brought back anything tangible. In reality, the Rockets engaged in a slash and burn campaign to clear everything out in the hope that something new can grow in its place.
The Rockets’ rebuilding strategy, contrary to Rafael Stone’s public comments, are pursuing a full-on teardown. When a team takes a machete to the roster it usually takes years for the team to become competitive again, but as their moves, this season has shown, that’s likely exactly what the Rockets are planning on doing.