Grade the Trade: Houston Rockets land Lauri Markkanen in shocking proposal

Should the Houston Rockets trade for Lauri Markkanen?
Should the Houston Rockets trade for Lauri Markkanen? / Tim Warner/GettyImages

The Houston Rockets took a massive leap forward in 2023-24. They have a surplus of young talent and assets. In other words, they're precisely the type of team that will be the target of trade speculation.

Often, a team in the Rockets' position will consolidate some assets. They're on the fringe of playoff contention. In the eyes of some, that means that it's time to push their chips all-in.

It seems that Bleacher Report shares that sentiment. Recently, they published an article proposing a trade for every team that missed the playoffs.

They've got the Rockets landing Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz.

Houston Rockets land star forward in proposal

Let's look at the details.

There are multiple variables to consider in any trade proposal. Does the trade work from a pure value perspective? Does it serve the interests of both parties? Is it utterly ridiculous?

We'll knock out the last question first: no. This is a sensible proposal.

How much better does it make the Rockets?

Houston Rockets make considerable upgrade

In all likelihood, a fair bit.

Markkanen is the best player in this deal by a massive margin. Even comparing him to Smith Jr. or Whitmore statistically feels disingenuous.

In 2023-24, Markkanen averaged 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 48.0% from the field and 39.9% from three-point range. Those numbers actually represent a slight decline from 2022-23, when he was named the league's Most Improved Player and nearly qualified for an All-NBA team.

The advanced metrics suggest that he's far more impactful than Smith Jr. Markkanen had a Box Plus/Minus (BPM) of 3.6 in 2023-24. That puts him in the same company as players like Kevin Durant (4.0), Zion Williamson (3.8) and Scottie Barnes (3.7).

Does that mean that the Rockets should pull the trigger on this deal?

Houston Rockets should (probably) pass on Markkanen

If the Rockets make this deal, we won't lead any protests. Still, if we were in Rafael Stone's shoes, we'd pass.

Smith Jr. is already a better defender than Markkanen. His 0.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) is far ahead of Markkanen's -1.5 mark.

That passes the sniff test. Smith Jr. has outstanding lateral mobility for someone who stands 6'11". Markkanen is average at best in that department.

That's critical for Houston. The Rockets need strong defenders around Alperen Sengun. A frontcourt combination of Sengun and Markkanen is likely to give up a lot of points on the interior. Sengun is Turkish, and Markkannen is Finnish, but if the Rockets make this deal, their frontcourt defense would be Swiss cheese.


Moreover, it's worth noting that Markkanen was looking like a bust at one point in his career. The Chicago Bulls gave up on him, and in all likelihood, they regret it.

Will Smith Jr. or Whitmore ever be as generally impactful as Markkanen? It's statistically unlikely. That's not a knock on either - it's a compliment to Markkanen.

Still, it's likely that two combined, along with whoever is selected with that unprotected first, will exceed Markkanen's production. The Rockets should hang onto their assets and let this young core continue to develop chemistry unless a true superstar becomes available. As talented as Markkanen is, he doesn't quite reach that threshold.

This is a reasonable proposal, but it's one we'd reject.

Grade: B